The Oracle: Issue #2

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ISSUE <strong>#2</strong><br />

OCT 23<br />









SIGN UP TO<br />




BACK<br />

Welcome to the second edition of <strong>The</strong><br />

<strong>Oracle</strong>, the e-zine from Gamechangers<br />

that keeps you updated on the world of<br />

competitive socialising, immersive gaming<br />

and interactive leisure.<br />

Speaking of interactive, we are<br />

bringing a healthy dose of exactly<br />

that to our own game. As you<br />

read through these pages, you’ll<br />

find loads of click throughs to<br />

websites, downloads and videos<br />

that furnish you with even more<br />

information and insights into the<br />

brilliant innovators leading the way<br />

in this sector.<br />

<strong>The</strong> aim of Gamechangers is to<br />

provide a network and support<br />

that ensures this burgeoning<br />

sector continues to thrive.<br />

If you are not a member of<br />

Gamechangers yet, please take<br />

time to have a look at everything<br />

we have to offer.<br />

As a member you will have access<br />

to a host of benefits and exclusive<br />

offers including benchmarking,<br />

price indexing, free music audits,<br />

data & insight – all focussed<br />

specifically on your sector.<br />

You and your teams will also be<br />

able to use free 24/7 helplines<br />

for licensing, HR and insurance<br />

advice.<br />

Just £99 per month will give ALL<br />

of your venues access to ALL of<br />

these benefits.<br />

Here’s one of those interactive<br />

links I mentioned – click to join!<br />

We’ve been out and about at a<br />

whole host of venues since our<br />

launch issue, giving us an up close<br />

and personal experience of the<br />

ever-broadening entertainment on<br />

offer throughout the sector.<br />

And we want to experience even<br />

more! So, if you would like <strong>The</strong><br />

<strong>Oracle</strong> to visit and play or join you<br />

at your latest opening, just drop us<br />

a line at oracle@gamechangers.<br />

org.uk so we can see exactly what<br />

makes you so special.<br />

See you about town!<br />

Sharon Dickinson, Commercial<br />

Director & Content Editor<br />



Editor-in-Chief<br />

Matt Eley<br />

matt@gamechangers.org.uk<br />

Commercial Director & Content Editor<br />

Sharon Dickinson<br />

sharon@gamechangers.org.uk<br />

Graphics & Design<br />

Cieran de Valmency<br />

cieran@gamechangers.org.uk<br />

This Month’s Contributors<br />

Scott Hulme, Managing Director, Venners<br />

Ed Christmas, Managing Director, Bums on Seats<br />

Hugh Knowles, Owner, Leisure Social<br />

Katie Jenkins, Managing Director, KAM<br />

Luke Elford, Partner, John Gaunt & Partners<br />

Oliver Calvert, Head of Brand & Marketing, Romero Group<br />

Molly Davis, Head of Communications, BII<br />

Advertising Opportunities<br />

oracle@gamechangers.org.uk<br />

Managing Director, Gamechangers<br />

Jade Craig<br />

jade@gamechangers.org.uk<br />

Hospitality Consultant, Gamechangers<br />

Kelly Mortimer<br />

kelly@gamechangers.org.uk<br />

<strong>The</strong> <strong>Oracle</strong><br />

Gamechangers Organisation Ltd<br />

Coach House, Ryeford<br />

Stonehouse, Gloucestershire<br />

GL10 3HG<br />



It is with the greatest pleasure I welcome you<br />

to <strong>Issue</strong> 2 of <strong>The</strong> <strong>Oracle</strong> - and haven’t we been<br />

busy! <strong>The</strong>re’s lots to tell since our last issue…<br />

Since our last edition, we are<br />

delighted to welcome Hugh<br />

Knowles to our advisory board at<br />

Gamechangers. As the former MD<br />

of Puttshack Ltd, and having 25+<br />

years in the leisure and hospitality<br />

business, Hugh is consulting with<br />

a number of businesses within the<br />

sector. We are honoured to have<br />

such talent on our own board,<br />

further enriching the proposition for<br />

all Gamechangers members.<br />

We, at All Star Lanes, were lucky<br />

to have <strong>The</strong> <strong>Oracle</strong> come to visit<br />

as we hosted the relaunch of our<br />

Stratford venue. Having traded<br />

successfully for 11 years in the East<br />

of London, the venue underwent<br />

significant refurbishment and now<br />

features a beautiful new cocktail<br />

bar, a vibrant party space and two<br />

karaoke suites - with more to come<br />

early in the new year.<br />

Now, as the Indian Summer<br />

wanes, it can be hard to believe<br />

how very close to Christmas we<br />

are. We are enthused to report<br />

that, despite a generally slower<br />

return from summer to corporate<br />

events across the industry,<br />

Christmas bookings are coming in<br />

nicely. Many operators are seeing<br />

contracts and those all-important<br />

deposits starting to fall in line with<br />

pre-covid timelines.<br />

This issue sees a feature article<br />

from founder members, Bums<br />

on Seats. . Indeed we are gifted at<br />

Gamechangers all year round to<br />

have their MD, Ed Christmas, on<br />

the board of Gamechangers and<br />

in this months issue, (page 14) he<br />

is giving his ‘Christmas top tips’.<br />

He’ll be venturing into process<br />

design, ensuring there are no ‘leaky<br />

buckets’ in the sales pipeline; the<br />

importance of tracking; good<br />

bookings housekeeping; as well as<br />

maximising potential upsells from<br />

those clients who have confirmed<br />

bookings already.<br />

Luke Elford of John Gaunt &<br />

Partners Licensing Solicitors has<br />

put aside his Grinch-like nature<br />

and written an in-depth series<br />

of top tips on how to avoid the<br />

sting of licensing for operators at<br />

Christmas time.<br />

Lucky Voice are in perfect pitch on<br />

page 9, with Charlie Elek discussing<br />

their evolved world with <strong>The</strong> <strong>Oracle</strong>.<br />

Delve into the decline of booze-<br />

centered socialising with KAM’s<br />

latest research report. Board<br />

member, Katie Jenkins, explores<br />

the opportunities to be won<br />

over the Christmas period with<br />

a revamped focus on Low & No<br />

alcohol offerings - on page 22.<br />

May I be one of the first to wish all<br />

our members and partners a happy<br />

and successful final quarter to<br />

2023, and all the very best for this<br />

season’s trade,<br />


Graham Cook,<br />

Chairman of Gamechangers<br />

4<br />



09<br />


Sing when you’re winning<br />

We hand the mic to Gamechangers<br />

member Lucky Voice to hear what<br />

they’ve been up to<br />

17<br />



Checking out Canary<br />

Wharf and the O2<br />

We take aim at Clays in Canary Wharf and<br />

get a shuffle on at Boom Battle Bar<br />

22<br />


<strong>The</strong> decline in boozecentred<br />

socialising<br />

KAM looks at the rise in Brits<br />

cutting back on alcohol<br />

26<br />


Don’t mention the C word!<br />

Top tips on planning for Christmas from<br />

John Gaunt & Partners<br />


12<br />


Meet Venners<br />

Venners MD Scott Hulme talks profit<br />

building and compliance<br />

20<br />


Hugh Knowles,<br />

Owner of Leisure Social<br />

Hugh Knowles is on hand to<br />

help members ace their own<br />

business ventures<br />

34<br />


Your guide to the 12<br />

months of Christmas<br />

Purists of Play provides a go-to calendar<br />

for prepping a successful Christmas<br />

36<br />


150% Boost to your<br />

customer visits with<br />

Location Bank<br />

Data specialists Location Bank help<br />

customers find you<br />

14<br />


Pre-booked<br />

profitability for<br />

Christmas<br />

30<br />


How competitive<br />

socialising is dominating<br />

the hospitality industry<br />

Insurance specialists NDML look at what<br />

adapting your business can mean<br />

38<br />


Sport fits the bill at<br />

Boom Battle Bar<br />

TNT Sports is part of the action at<br />

Boom Battle Bar<br />

Bums on Seats look at ways of<br />

making this festive season a merry<br />

and profitable one<br />

32<br />

41<br />

Editor’s pick!<br />


Revolutionising the<br />

Christmas work party<br />

Against washout summers and set course meals for<br />

Christmas work parties, utilise your space with competitive<br />

socialising to boost your venue’s edge, come rain or shine.<br />

WHAT’S NEW<br />

Changing the game<br />

Openings and more from across<br />

the sector<br />






While recent years have seen an explosion in competitive<br />

socialising venue openings, Lucky Voice has been hitting the right<br />

notes long before this mainstream emergence in hospitality.<br />

<strong>The</strong> karaoke chain - and<br />

Gamechangers member - has<br />

been providing groups with private<br />

booths to sing with friends and<br />

colleagues to their hearts’ content<br />

since 2005.<br />

With four London sites, another in<br />

Brighton, a franchise in Dubai and<br />

plans for more - both home and<br />

abroad - in the pipeline, Lucky Voice<br />

is turning the volume up.<br />

Speaking with <strong>The</strong> <strong>Oracle</strong> in the<br />

comfort of the VIP booth at Lucky<br />

Voice’s newest site at London’s<br />

Liverpool Street, Managing<br />

Director Charlie Elek explains that<br />

the success of the competitive<br />

socialising sector has helped his<br />

business up its own game.<br />

He explains: “It’s been really great<br />

for us that this space has been<br />

created. When Bounce opened<br />

in 2012 that was a key moment<br />

because off the back of that came<br />

Flight Club, Puttshack, Swingers…<br />

everything else.<br />

“We saw these operators as<br />

competitors - but in a positive way<br />

because there were not that many<br />

in our space.<br />

Charlie Elek, Managing<br />

Director of Lucky Voice<br />

Matt Eley, Editor-in-Chief,<br />

<strong>The</strong> <strong>Oracle</strong><br />

8<br />



“We feed off what the competition<br />

has to offer - and we learn a lot<br />

from them - even though we are<br />

not competitive by nature.<br />

“We are not about singing well<br />

or winning, the best karaoke<br />

experiences are when someone<br />

who has never sung before gets up<br />

and has the time of their life with<br />

everyone around them!”<br />

This scene is a regular occurrence<br />

for Lucky Voice, which attracts<br />

swathes of office parties and hen<br />

and stag dos. Often, when a guest<br />

has visited with work and enjoyed<br />

the experience, they immediately<br />

rebook and return with friends.<br />

With more than 10,000 songs to<br />

pick from in the catalogue, and<br />

the ability to order food and drink<br />

to be delivered to your booth, there<br />

is already plenty of choice at Lucky<br />

Voice, however the brand’s latest<br />

concept takes some inspiration<br />

from other players in the market.<br />

<strong>The</strong>ir new ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’ option<br />

gives guests a randomiser option,<br />

where duets will be paired and<br />

songs generated to sing. While not<br />

‘competitive’ in the SingStar sense,<br />

it does add in a new interactive<br />

element to the offer.<br />

Charlie adds: “It’s a really nice<br />

touch. It works well for our<br />

regulars but it’s also a nice way of<br />

introducing people to it. We have<br />

another game in development too.”<br />

Always leading the way in new<br />

and innovative technology, Lucky<br />

Voice licenses its software to other<br />

hospitality venues across the<br />

globe.<br />

Meanwhile, the business is<br />

focusing on other areas to increase<br />

dwell time and the overall customer<br />

experience, such as its food and<br />

drink offer. Bigger bar and kitchen<br />

areas have been key components<br />

of its latest sites (Holborn and<br />

Liverpool Street) and this will<br />

continue throughout its future<br />

expansion plans.<br />

Charlie continues: “It really helps<br />

our sales team bring in corporates<br />

and big day events.<br />

“It’s still a fairly small percentage<br />

of overall revenue (about 5%) and<br />

we want to get the balance right<br />

to increase dwell time, so people<br />

don’t feel they have to go to dinner<br />

before or after their session. But<br />

with food GP diminishing all the<br />

time we don’t currently have an aim<br />

to get to 20%.”<br />

Another area where Lucky Voice is<br />

on a similar journey with rivals in<br />

the sector is in looking across the<br />

Atlantic for opportunities.<br />

Charlie, who has witnessed<br />

the success of brands such<br />

as Puttshack, Flight Club and<br />

Swingers on the East Coast first<br />

hand, says: “It’s interesting how few<br />

people know that the businesses<br />

have come over from the UK.“<br />

“It’s amazing that the UK is selling<br />

entertainment to the US and it’s<br />

working a treat, but it’s a testament<br />

to those concepts. We were in<br />

Puttshack in Boston at 5pm on<br />

a Monday and it was absolutely<br />

packed in there.”<br />

While the US is likely to get its<br />

first Lucky Voice in the next 18<br />

months, the UK will see even more<br />

with another site in London on the<br />

way and others likely to pop up in<br />

Birmingham and Manchester.<br />

<strong>The</strong>se are ambitious plans, but<br />

perhaps nothing less than you<br />

would expect from an MD who<br />

confesses that if he could perform<br />

a karaoke duet with anyone at all it<br />

would be Elvis Presley.<br />

Charlie’s own star has famously<br />

risen after starting out as a<br />

graduate intern at Lucky Voice.<br />

He was given an opportunity by<br />

founders Martha Lane Fox and<br />

Nick Thistleton, grabbed it and rose<br />

to running the business.<br />

He takes huge pride in senior team<br />

members having risen through the<br />

ranks to the leadership team. He<br />

still conducts ‘values’ interviews<br />

with all full time recruits (there are<br />

110 members of staff across the<br />

business) to ensure they are the<br />

right fit for each other. <strong>The</strong>re is<br />

focus on progression, mental wellbeing,<br />

clear communication and<br />

good old fashioned fun.<br />

He explains: “We have a great team<br />

of people who really buy into the<br />

values. It’s been a real help to do<br />

that. It’s something I love doing and<br />

it means I meet all the team before<br />

they start. Lucky Voice is such a<br />

fun place to be as a customer that<br />

it needs to be a fun and joyous<br />

place to work.”<br />

With more concepts and openings<br />

on the way, the good times look<br />

set to continue for both staff and<br />

customers alike.<br />

Discover Lucky<br />

Voice in London,<br />

Brighton & beyond<br />

luckyvoicekaraoke.com<br />

10<br />




Gamechangers’ list of supplier partners is packed with<br />

experts committed to supporting operator members<br />

build strong, expanding and profitable businesses.<br />

This issue <strong>The</strong> <strong>Oracle</strong> met with Scott Hulme, MD at Venners,<br />

to discuss how their partnerships offer profit building, and<br />

secure and compliant venues.<br />

We have developed a strong<br />

consultancy side of the business<br />

that offers investigations, advice<br />

on financial and operational<br />

processes, food and drink control<br />

plus other practical services.<br />

We also offer the monitoring of<br />

company compliance to ensure<br />

that processes are working. We<br />

work closely with the policies that<br />

a business already has in place, to<br />

check and report that your teams<br />

are adhering to them.<br />

Operators are expected to be the<br />

heads of all departments, and they<br />

simply haven’t got the time. We’re<br />

here to take away the stress and<br />

pain operators face, by providing<br />

practical action points to control<br />

and improve the space’s efficiency<br />

and profitability.”<br />

Why is data important?<br />

“It’s all about competition. To be<br />

the best operator you need to<br />

have the best data.<br />

Data gives a crucial snapshot to<br />

assess business health. It should<br />

cover every area of the business<br />

and goes beyond keeping track of<br />

food and drink. Of course, losing<br />

10 pints or wasting food, should<br />

be addressed. But to truly focus on<br />

adding pounds to the bottom line, it<br />

is just as important to monitor data<br />

related to equipment, invoices, staff<br />

costs and prices - and to make<br />

corrections accordingly.<br />

Operators ultimately have to find<br />

the right companies who can<br />

support them, are trustworthy<br />

partners and can work on budget.”<br />

What kind of changes are<br />

you seeing?<br />

“Competitive Socialising is<br />

attracting new people and<br />

franchisees into the industry,<br />

injecting fresh ideas, and keeping<br />

the sector competitive, innovative,<br />

and fast paced. However, these<br />

people often come from a<br />

non-hospitality background and<br />

may not have had the opportunity<br />

to see how setting up essential<br />

controls benefit their operation.”<br />

What are you currently<br />

working on?<br />

“<strong>The</strong>re is so much we are focusing<br />

on and we look forward to being<br />

able to share our research,<br />

benchmarking, industry standard<br />

reports and price indexing soon.”<br />


How long have you been<br />

in hospitality?<br />

“I have worked in hospitality for<br />

36 years, starting as a waiter<br />

and working my way up to pub<br />

manager. I am now MD at Venners.<br />

When I left college, I started my<br />

career in accountancy but carried<br />

on working in the evenings at the<br />

pub. My boss at the accountancy<br />

firm asked me to quit my<br />

hospitality job to concentrate on<br />

accountancy. I thought, you know<br />

what, I actually enjoy my evening<br />

job in hospitality more than my day<br />

job in accountancy.<br />

I just love the culture of the<br />

sector, but I do also enjoy working<br />

with facts and figures, which is<br />

why almost 30 years ago now, I<br />

joined Venners - to get the best<br />

of both worlds. So, I have been in<br />

hospitality on both sides of the<br />

fence and that’s given me a good<br />

grounding and understanding of<br />

what the industry is and needs.”<br />

What do Venners offer?<br />

“Venners are an established and<br />

respected stocktake and audit<br />

company. We pride ourselves on<br />

working with operators, giving<br />

them real time practical advice and<br />

support, as well as helping them<br />

implement processes.<br />

Good old-fashioned stocktaking<br />

is a valuable resource for the P&L.<br />

How many bottles are left? How<br />

many steaks can you still sell? Have<br />

you lost a keg? Beyond answering<br />

those types of questions though,<br />

we offer operators so much more….<br />

Your stock has monetary value.<br />

If someone stole £50 out of your<br />

safe, you’d call the police. But<br />

when it comes to stock going<br />

missing it is often not seen to be<br />

quite as serious as when cash<br />

Check out Venners today:<br />

www.venners.com<br />

goes missing. <strong>The</strong>n again, it’s<br />

no good turning up at a site<br />

saying, ‘you need to lock all<br />

your stock up for 24 hours<br />

a day so that none of it gets<br />

pinched!’<br />

Scott Hulme, Managing<br />

Director of Venners<br />

“ If someone stole £50 out<br />

of your safe, you’d call the<br />

police. But when it comes<br />

to stock going missing it is<br />

often not seen to be quite<br />

as serious as when cash<br />

goes missing. “<br />

12<br />






Top Tips from Mr Christmas!<br />

Within hospitality - across all the sectors, not just competitive<br />

socialising - Christmas is the time of year that businesses<br />

rely on. With this year looking to be more promising than the<br />

previous three (fingers crossed!), it’s more important than ever<br />

to ensure that not only is your Christmas bigger than ever but<br />

that it is as profitable as possible.<br />

Existing Opportunities<br />

Undoubtedly by now, groups of<br />

friends and colleagues alike will<br />

be making enquiries and setting<br />

up bookings to celebrate the<br />

Christmas period.<br />


Check Your Foundations<br />

It’s common for businesses to<br />

drive off-peak trade during the<br />

quieter months, and it’s tempting<br />

to launch into the world of discount<br />

culture.<br />

But before doing that - ask yourself:<br />

Are your systems working as hard<br />

as they possibly can?<br />

Have you agreed when you’ll start<br />

taking small bookings for the<br />

Christmas period?<br />

Have you got automations set up<br />

in your CRM platform?<br />

Has your sales team contacted<br />

last year’s bookers directly?<br />

If you’re unsure of any of the<br />

answers to these questions, you’re<br />

going to want to review and use<br />

your existing information, data<br />

and platforms to their maximum<br />

potential.<br />

This efficiency helps your bottom<br />

line and, in turn, customer retention<br />

and loyalty in the mid-to-long term<br />

after Christmas. Otherwise, your<br />

sales and marketing efforts might<br />

be going to waste.<br />

Track Everything<br />

Track, track and track again! Not<br />

the kind of tracks you get at an F1<br />

Arcade (excuse the pun!), but it’s<br />

crucial to ensure your business is<br />

tracking prebooked sales and the<br />

productivity of your marketing.<br />

By keeping an eye on the activities<br />

you’re doing, it means you can<br />

learn what genuinely works for your<br />

business and adapt as you go.<br />

Tracking as much as you can gives<br />

you the best chance of making this<br />

the most profitable Christmas to<br />

date.<br />

Training<br />

Have you carried out practice runs<br />

before the big day(s)?<br />

According to a survey conducted<br />

by Studio68, 56% of hospitality<br />

staff do not feel as though they<br />

have had sufficient training in their<br />

role. It’s integral to ensure that the<br />

team not only know what they are<br />

doing, but how they are doing it.<br />

For example, in a post-covid world<br />

and durihng the cost of living crisis,<br />

it’s key that your team understands<br />

how to attract new customers and<br />

approach existing ones. What is<br />

the best way to approach new<br />

business? Both B2B and B2C?<br />

What are the targets to achieve?<br />

By reviewing the bookings that are<br />

already locked in, could there be<br />

opportunities for you to build upon?<br />

What can be done to enhance the<br />

customer experience and tap into<br />

not just the customer’s needs, but<br />

the customer’s emotional wants?<br />

Can you offer something exclusive?<br />

Can you arrange a special package<br />

to increase the spend per head for<br />

the parties already locked in - both<br />

small and large?<br />

Additionally, once the foundations<br />

have been set up, it’s important to<br />

ensure your booking system has<br />

the capability to offer upsells at the<br />

point of booking. Bums on Seats<br />

have seen successes across the<br />

industry - with one competitive<br />

socialising venue bringing in<br />

an additional £1,000-£2,000<br />

additional prebooked revenue<br />

every week just by offering<br />

purchasable upsells at the<br />

point of booking.<br />

1<br />

2<br />

3<br />

4<br />

Ed Christmas, Managing<br />

Director of Bums On Seats<br />

In summary, there are plenty of opportunities and quick wins<br />

that can ensure you make this Christmas the most profitable<br />

one yet. Look at the data, focus on the low hanging fruit and<br />

adapt accordingly. Make this year a gamechanger.<br />

14<br />



BECOME A<br />


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Join Gamechangers TODAY!<br />

<strong>The</strong> <strong>Oracle</strong> heads to London to discover the vibe in Canary Wharf<br />

and the O2.<br />

With two twenty-somethings<br />

very committed to all things<br />

competitive socialising, and two<br />

fifty-somethings willing to ‘have a<br />

go’, <strong>The</strong> <strong>Oracle</strong> just knew that a day<br />

in Canary Wharf would deliver!<br />

Midday; the sun is shining and<br />

the place is already buzzing. As<br />

we walk towards the first venue<br />

it’s amazing to see how many<br />

hospitality businesses are vying<br />

for attention. Eating, drinking and<br />

playing is certainly at the heart<br />

of Canary Wharf. Our first stop is<br />

Clays for an hour of shooting, food<br />

and drinks.<br />

Clays is an epic venue with well<br />

designed, comfy booths, huge<br />

high-definition screens, various<br />

shooting scenarios, phone<br />

charging slots and easy-to-use<br />

ordering tablets.<br />

Greeted by a warm and welcoming<br />

team member, we confirm our<br />



“ Within five minutes,<br />

all niceties and<br />

non-competitive<br />

behaviour go out<br />

the window, and we<br />

suddenly transform<br />

into wannabe Team<br />

GB sharp shooters! “<br />

arena, several immersive dining<br />

and theatre experiences, a cinema,<br />

indoor trampolining, huge shopping<br />

outlets, extensive food and drink<br />

offerings to suit all tastes - and,<br />

of course, incredible competitive<br />

socialising venues.<br />

Boom Battle Bar is our next<br />

destination and - WOW, what a<br />

place! <strong>The</strong> music, the vibration,<br />

the high pitch chatter, cheering,<br />

celebrations and noticeably<br />

competitive banter hits all<br />

senses as soon as we arrive.<br />

Our first session is on the Shufl<br />

shuffleboards - with half of the<br />

group experienced and the other<br />

half complete novices.<br />

“ <strong>The</strong> music, the vibration,<br />

the high pitch chatter,<br />

cheering, celebrations and<br />

noticeably competitive<br />

banter hits all senses as<br />

soon as we arrive. “<br />

early check in and are immediately<br />

escorted to the bar to enjoy drinks<br />

before the games commence.<br />

All notions of starting with a soft<br />

drink disappear when <strong>The</strong> <strong>Oracle</strong><br />

is handed the cocktail menu<br />

developed by mixologist Jon<br />

Calabrese - and a round of Summer<br />

cocktails are duly ordered.<br />

We are led to our booth and taken<br />

through the rules and techniques<br />

for the next hour of civilised, yet<br />

competitive, shooting. Photos are<br />

taken, game names entered on<br />

the big screen and it’s time to pull<br />

the trigger! Within five minutes,<br />

all niceties and non-competitive<br />

behaviour go out the window,<br />

and we suddenly transform into<br />

wannabe Team GB sharp shooters!<br />

By 12.30pm all booths are<br />

occupied, and both cheers and<br />

disgruntled moaning ricochet<br />

throughout the venue. More drinks<br />

are ordered and the tempting food<br />

menu created by culinary director<br />

of Clays and executive chef, Roger<br />

Olsson (formerly from <strong>The</strong> Ritz and<br />

<strong>The</strong> Dorchester) simply has to be<br />

‘tested’. Immaculate service and<br />

delivery to our booth ensures that<br />

no session time is lost.<br />

As the clock counts down - and<br />

despite great efforts - <strong>The</strong> <strong>Oracle</strong><br />

lands at the bottom of our booth’s<br />

league. We want to reload for more<br />

action, but the waiting groups of<br />

hens, birthday celebrators, families<br />

and groups of friends means<br />

no chance of an extended stay.<br />

Instead, we make tracks across to<br />

the O2 for our next experience.<br />

<strong>The</strong> O2 is packed with visitors<br />

enjoying the massive entertainment<br />

hub that is home to the famous O2<br />

<strong>The</strong> <strong>Oracle</strong> was way too nosey<br />

to take in the instructions on<br />

how to play as we were led to the<br />

shuffleboard court, as they were<br />

transfixed by the axe-throwing<br />

arena. So much so, they had to be<br />

dragged back to rejoin the group.<br />

Shuffleboard is totally addictive<br />

and, from a beginners perspective,<br />

once you get it you are on a roll -<br />

or should I say glide? At the end of<br />

the hour the not so young newbies<br />

reigned supreme.<br />

What really made <strong>The</strong> <strong>Oracle</strong> beam<br />

was, not only the Pina Colada<br />

cocktail, but the diversity of ages<br />

enjoying Boom Battle Bar. <strong>The</strong><br />

guests ranged from 5-100, with<br />

generations laughing together,<br />

getting involved and going into<br />

battle. Hens, Stags, mates, couples,<br />

young, old, in-betweener - Boom<br />

Battle Bar really has something for<br />

everyone.<br />

<strong>The</strong> atmospheric room is huge and<br />

encompasses everything sensetingling,<br />

with ambient lighting,<br />

huge TVs showing live sport,<br />

upbeat music, and countless<br />

arenas for different games - from<br />

axe throwing and golf to interactive<br />

darts and basketball. We settled on<br />

a game of American pool.<br />

As it turns out, <strong>The</strong> <strong>Oracle</strong> is about<br />

as successful at shooting pool as<br />

shooting at Clays. Perhaps joining<br />

the beer pong groups next to the<br />

American pool tables would have<br />

been easier...<br />

Distracted by the arrival of buffalo<br />

mac and cheese bites and battered<br />

‘prawn stars’, the session ended<br />

with <strong>The</strong> <strong>Oracle</strong> having zero wins -<br />

and one huge smile.<br />

After a truly inspiring day with very<br />

different experiences, our group<br />

bounced out, still high on the<br />

atmosphere.<br />

Now we are busy deciding where to<br />

go next!<br />

Want to be<br />

showcased next?<br />

Get in touch today:<br />

oracle@gamechangers.org.uk<br />

18<br />



<strong>The</strong> emergence of miniature golf<br />

across the UK has been one of<br />

the distinct driving forces of the<br />

competitive socialising sector.<br />

For one of the founding fathers of<br />

that movement, Hugh Knowles, it<br />

started with an ambition to bring<br />

the sport of golf to the 85% of<br />

people that would never consider<br />

spending four hours or so traipsing<br />

around 18 holes in unpredictable<br />

weather conditions.<br />

<strong>The</strong> miniature golf pioneer, who<br />

went on to become managing<br />

director of Puttshack, started his<br />

career in what he terms the ‘real<br />

golf’ industry.<br />

Hugh Knowles, Owner of Leisure Social<br />

After bringing miniature golf<br />

to the masses, Hugh is here to<br />

help Gamechangers members<br />

ace their own business ventures.<br />

After studying in the USA, he learnt<br />

the ropes at golf property company,<br />

American Golf (UK) as a group<br />

manager. He describes this as<br />

“an amazing experience because<br />

of everything I was exposed to. It<br />

taught me all the foundations and<br />

operating standards at a young<br />

age.”<br />

From there, he went to work<br />

for the Guinness-owned Burhill<br />

Group, where he was charged -<br />

and successful at - growing the<br />

Group’s 20-plus golf courses with<br />

a focus on memberships, retail,<br />

leisure, food and drink and health<br />

and fitness.<br />

Around the time of the financial<br />

crash, when UK golf memberships<br />

were dwindling, Hugh wanted to<br />

find a way to grow the appeal of<br />

a sport that maintained an elitist<br />

association - with wealthy men in<br />

V-neck sweaters.<br />

<strong>The</strong> Guinness family gave him the<br />

greenlight to construct a £600,000<br />

18-hole miniature set up at Abbey<br />

Hill Golf Centre in Milton Keynes -<br />

which was chosen for its family<br />

demographics.<br />

Hugh explains: “It was a beautiful,<br />

landscaped, 18 hole golf course<br />

with waterfalls and a pirate ship. I<br />

became the anti-Christ of golfers!”<br />

Despite his nerves about opening<br />

on a frosty October morning, more<br />

people played the course that day<br />

than the full 18-course that entire<br />

week.<br />

From there Hugh pushed on,<br />

opening more outdoor sites<br />

across the UK under the new<br />

Burhill subsidiary, Adventure<br />

Leisure. Indoor sites followed,<br />

with a growing emphasis on food<br />

and drink offerings as the space<br />

continued to evolve.<br />

His next move saw him join forces<br />

with Puttshack in 2018 after<br />

recognising how their technology<br />

would push miniature golf even<br />

further in the social entertainment<br />

world. It was here, whilst working<br />

alongside the Bounce managment<br />

team (now State of Play) that<br />

he discovered more about the<br />

challenges and opportunities of<br />

running sites in the capital.<br />

“I learnt huge amounts, especially<br />

the difference in markets, capex<br />

spend and ROI between the<br />

London and the regional markets,<br />

the wider corporate spend available<br />

and copious cultural differences.”<br />

Earlier this year he launched his<br />

own consultancy business, Leisure<br />

Social, to provide support to new<br />

businesses in the sector. He is<br />

also fundraising and working on<br />

bringing a new concept to market<br />

in the not too distant future.<br />

Hugh’s role on the Gamechangers<br />

advisory board ensures that his<br />

vast operational experience and<br />

know-how will benefit members.<br />

He continues: “It’s an establishing<br />

industry with some more mature<br />

players and some younger players<br />

coming through in the market.<br />

<strong>The</strong>re’s an opportunity to help<br />

these new players come in and<br />

establish themselves.<br />

“If Gamechangers can help out with<br />

financing, real estate, suppliers,<br />

etc, then we can also offer some<br />

guidance and support as they<br />

establish their new concepts in this<br />

ever growing market.”<br />

“<strong>The</strong>re’s a potential to provide<br />

more support with such a great<br />

stakeholder network, and to<br />

increase the voice for this sector.”<br />

And he fully expects the sector and<br />

that voice to grow in this country<br />

and then across the globe.<br />

“<strong>The</strong>re will always be an appetite<br />

for new activities in this market. If<br />

you can get the minutia ingredients<br />

correct: make sure the drinks and<br />

food are amazing, the fit out is<br />

relative to the target market, the<br />

ambience, the lighting, the music,<br />

and it can be a super successful<br />

business.”<br />

<strong>The</strong>re’s going to be a number of<br />

new innovations coming through,<br />

I think that will continue for a little<br />

while longer.<br />

“ <strong>The</strong> UK is still a<br />

hub for innovation<br />

despite the financial<br />

challenges of now.<br />

<strong>The</strong>n I see it moving<br />

out, potentially,<br />

into international<br />

markets. <strong>The</strong>re are a<br />

lot of opportunities<br />

globally. “<br />

After bringing golf to the masses<br />

for the first time, Hugh will now,<br />

in his role on the Gamechangers<br />

board, help other businesses<br />

achieve their own aims and bring<br />

customers through their doors.<br />

Sign up today for a<br />

GC membership<br />

www.gamechangers.org.uk<br />


20<br />




3.7M<br />

Brits ruled out a<br />

specific venue due<br />

to poor alcohol-free<br />

options<br />

Does it surprise you that as many Brits moderated their alcohol<br />

income this summer as in ‘Dry January’?<br />

Many are planning to continue<br />

‘moderating’ their drinking across<br />

the upcoming festive season, with<br />

44% of Brits intending to drink less<br />

alcohol during Christmas 2023<br />

compared with 2022. KAM’s recent<br />

report, in partnership with Lucky<br />

Saint, found actively moderating<br />

alcohol consumption is now a yearround<br />

habit for UK adults.<br />

It seems that moderation has hit<br />

the mainstream!<br />

<strong>The</strong>re has been a significant<br />

fall in the number of UK adults<br />

consuming alcohol at least once<br />

a week, with the figure now at<br />

76.9% (down from 90% in 2022).<br />

This equates to a drop of 6.8m<br />

people drinking weekly, with all age<br />

groups reporting a decline in overall<br />

alcohol consumption. Within the<br />

18-24 age group – a core age group<br />

for competitive socialising venues<br />

- the figure has fallen fastest, from<br />

91% in 2022 down to 72% this year.<br />

This coincides with a whole raft of<br />

new consumers entering the low<br />

and no category within the last year<br />

- with 9.7m UK adults (19% of UK<br />

adults) trying low and no alcohol<br />

beer for the first time.<br />

Moderation has most certainly hit<br />

the mainstream and it’s part of a<br />

bigger shift in how we, as a nation,<br />

are spending our leisure time.<br />

We now see a modern consumer<br />

where socialising is not as centred<br />

around drinking culture, who is<br />

more aware of the risks of alcohol,<br />

and therefore is pro-actively taking<br />

action to ensure that they are<br />

drinking at what they consider to<br />

be responsible levels.<br />

But consumers don’t want to miss<br />

out on all the occasions where<br />

alcohol is normally present – going<br />

to the pub with friends, celebrating<br />

a birthday at home, or enjoying<br />

a beer while watching sport, for<br />

example. <strong>The</strong> increasing number<br />

of low alcohol or alcohol-free<br />

options available is therefore being<br />

welcomed with open arms. 30% of<br />

Brits intend to consume alcoholfree<br />

options over the festive period<br />

e.g. alcohol free wine or beer – and<br />

this rises to well over 1-in-3 in the<br />

millennial age bracket.<br />

Despite this long-term growth in<br />

low or alcohol-free occasions,<br />

venues are still at risk of losing<br />

customers, by giving them an<br />

underwhelming experience and<br />

not maximising potential sales<br />

on these low or alcohol-free<br />

occasions due to poor range and<br />

visibility. 3.7 million Brits ruled out<br />

a specific venue in the last three<br />

months alone due to poor alcoholfree<br />

options: totalling a missed<br />

opportunity of over £590.4m<br />

in revenue across the year for<br />

hospitality venues.<br />

During a recent chat with Luke<br />

Boase, founder of Lucky Saint,<br />

he highlighted that “whilst the<br />

low and no market continues<br />

to see tremendous growth, the<br />

opportunity for the UK remains<br />

significant. We trail behind many<br />

European nations in how we<br />

embrace low and no, with the likes<br />

of Spain, Germany and Sweden<br />

having larger market shares for low<br />

and no consumption compared to<br />

the UK.”<br />

Simon Farrow, Category Director<br />

for Tao Hospitality Group (who’s<br />

portfolio includes Hakkasan),<br />

have already taken the bold and<br />

innovative step to ‘zero proof’ their<br />

entire cocktail menu, providing<br />

like-for-like equivalents across the<br />

whole range. Simon proudly states<br />

that “1 in 8 of our cocktails are now<br />

alcohol-free. That’s a £4 to £12<br />

spend increase compared with<br />

people ordering sparkling water<br />

when they don’t want alcohol.”<br />

Venues must ensure they stay<br />

ahead of the curve, or they risk<br />

becoming less relevant for many<br />

potential customers, particularly<br />

Gen Z and Millennials, who tend<br />

to make up the largest proportion<br />

of all competitive socialising<br />

venue customers. <strong>The</strong> research<br />

shows that socialising in the UK is<br />

gradually becoming less alcoholdriven<br />

and more activity-led.<br />




Katie Jenkins, Marketing &<br />

Partnerships Director of KAM<br />

22<br />






1<br />



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DON’T<br />


THE C<br />

WORD!<br />

Anyone that knows me<br />

will tell you that I am<br />

basically <strong>The</strong> Grinch in<br />

human form...<br />

I refuse to acknowledge that<br />

Christmas exists until at least the<br />

1st of December, and I don’t really<br />

get into it until nearer the time. My<br />

lack of festivity doesn’t tend to play<br />

out well for my loved ones, who<br />

end up being gifted whatever I can<br />

get my mitts on at the last minute.<br />

However, for you, my dear<br />

Gamechangers, I am going to<br />

attempt to turn over a new leaf,<br />

and that means looking ahead to<br />

Christmas... in October?! My early<br />

present to you is (I hope) pertitent<br />

legal wisdom for when it comes to<br />

planning for the festive season.<br />

So here are my 5<br />

top-tips...<br />

1. Check your premises<br />

licence<br />

Your premises licence is always<br />

going to be the starting point<br />

for what you can and can’t do. It<br />

comes in two parts: Part A, which<br />

is the licence; and Part B, which is<br />

the premises licence summary.<br />

Part A should be kept somewhere<br />

safe - perhaps in the manager’s<br />

office - for using only as and when<br />

it is required.<br />

Part B, on the other hand, should be<br />

prominently displayed somewhere<br />

within your venue.<br />

“ Hint: your licence<br />

might contain a<br />

seasonal variation,<br />

which could assist<br />

you with any<br />

Christmas trading<br />

plans. ”<br />

2. Check the calendar<br />

Sounds simple, I know, and I have<br />

absolutely no intention of teaching<br />

people to suck eggs, but I am<br />

regularly approached by people<br />

who want to do something on<br />

short-notice and there simply isn’t<br />

time to get done what they need<br />

to get done. Whether that’s an<br />

application for a Temporary Event<br />

Notice (TEN) or an application to<br />

vary their premises licence, you<br />

need to ensure there’s enough time<br />

to get things sorted.<br />

Whilst on the subject of TENs,<br />

remember that the allowances this<br />

year are still at an increased level<br />

but will revert back to the previous<br />

limits in 2024.<br />

A premises can have a maximum<br />

of 20 TENs covering no more<br />

than 26 days (up from 15 TENs<br />

covering 21 days). A TEN needs to<br />

be given at least 10 clear working<br />

days before any event that you put<br />

on and this does not include the<br />

day of the event or the day that<br />

you give notice. <strong>The</strong>re is scope to<br />

submit a limited number of Late<br />

TENs. <strong>The</strong>se can be given at least<br />

five - but no more than nine - clear<br />

working days before an event. And<br />

the same rules regarding the day of<br />

the event/day of submission apply.<br />

You also need to remember that<br />

if you get an objection to a Late<br />

TEN that it is, unfortunately, “Game<br />

Over” and the event is unlikely to<br />

be allowed to go ahead. <strong>The</strong>re is,<br />

however, no upper limit on when<br />

you can give a TEN so there is<br />

nothing stopping you giving your<br />

TENs for the festive season now!<br />

3. Carry out a risk assessment<br />

of what you want to do<br />

I’m a big believer in carrying out<br />

risk assessments. I think they are<br />

a great tool for a) planning ahead<br />

and b) for me to be able to defend<br />

people when things go ‘Pete Tong’.<br />

I always get a warm fuzzy feeling<br />

when a client comes to me in a<br />

bind and they come armed with<br />

a risk assessment. It allows me<br />

to show anyone that may be<br />

(presently) narked at them that<br />

they have turned their mind to what<br />

can go wrong and tried to plan<br />

accordingly.<br />


Luke Elford, Partner at John Gaunt<br />

& Partners Licensing Solictors<br />

If I’m a betting man, I reckon you<br />

have grand plans for the festive<br />

season, and that those plans<br />

include things that might be<br />

somewhat out of the ordinary<br />

for your venue. This is where you<br />

need to check what you want to<br />

do against what you can do. I’ve<br />

lost count of the conversations<br />

that I have had with clients where<br />

they’ve come up with something<br />

awesome only to be thwarted by<br />

their premises licence not allowing<br />

them, for example, to have a DJ<br />

after 11pm. Check now whilst there<br />

is time to do something about it!<br />

26<br />



everyone is up to date on those<br />

and that all your posters are still up<br />

and recent. If you are aware of the<br />

possibilities of something going<br />

wrong then those things are less<br />

likely to happen.<br />


5. Have a chat with your<br />

licensing officer / police<br />

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invite them into their venues then<br />

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<strong>The</strong>re are plenty of risk<br />

assessment templates out there<br />

on ‘the interweb’, but, please,<br />

please, please don’t just copy<br />

and paste one, or just stick your<br />

logo on the first thing you find on<br />

Google. Take a beat and make sure<br />

that you tailor the risk assessment<br />

to your premises and - most<br />

importantly - towards what you<br />

want to do. Nothing completely<br />

undermines a risk assessment like<br />

a section that deals with how the<br />

non-existent swimming pool area<br />

will be managed (yes, this actually<br />

happened).<br />

4. Welfare<br />

Welfare, in licensing circles, is high<br />

on everyone’s agendas and it must<br />

be high on your agendas too. <strong>The</strong>re<br />

are few certainties in life – death,<br />

taxes, that my wife will be late and<br />

so on. Another certainty that I<br />

would add to that list is that there<br />

will be, in December, an article<br />

in the papers about Christmas<br />

parties gone wrong accompanied<br />

by a picture of someone passed<br />

out wearing a Santa hat.<br />

Customer welfare within the<br />

confines of your venues is your<br />

responsibility and falls, I would say,<br />

squarely under the public safety<br />

licensing objective.<br />

What can you do to improve<br />

customer welfare? Well, the answer<br />

is all sorts of things. One thing you<br />

might think about doing is having<br />

key staff members trained in<br />

customer welfare and vulnerability<br />

engagement (“WAVE”). Another is<br />

appointing a designated customer<br />

welfare officer whose role is to<br />

keep an eye on people and make<br />

sure people are having a good time<br />

and not in danger of overdoing it. If<br />

you operate welfare schemes like<br />

Ask for Angela or Ask for Clive then<br />

you may want to make sure that<br />

I always think it is worth letting<br />

your local enforcing authorities<br />

know what you are going to be<br />

doing so that they know what to<br />

expect. Forewarned is forearmed<br />

after all. My plea to you is not to rely<br />

on just having had a conversation,<br />

however. As our late Majesty said<br />

“recollections may vary” so I think<br />

it is important to follow-up any<br />

meeting you have with officers in<br />

writing and to invite them to agree<br />

what has been said. It provides less<br />

wriggle room down the line.<br />

So, there you have it<br />

My 5 top-tips for the festive<br />

season. I wish you all a happy and<br />

prosperous one – make lots of<br />

money and do the sector proud!<br />

Luke Elford is a Partner<br />

at John Gaunt & Partners<br />

specialising in licensing and<br />

will be providing a regular<br />

column for <strong>The</strong> <strong>Oracle</strong>.<br />

Luke can be contacted at<br />

lelford@john-gaunt.co.uk<br />








A new breed of entrepreneurs are taking social gatherings, and<br />

indeed hospitality as a whole, to the next level. <strong>The</strong> competitive<br />

revolution has already transformed unused retail spaces and<br />

listed buildings into social hubs for the young and the bold.<br />

Some of your friends & colleagues<br />

may have suggested shuffleboard.<br />

Some family members may be<br />

keen to go axe-throwing. Maybe<br />

you’ve attended a mini-golf date.<br />

Whatever the weather, these<br />

immersive experiences are taking<br />

the nation by storm.<br />

Let’s look at the statistics<br />

around competitive<br />

socialising<br />

Less focussed on socialising<br />

around alcohol, the next generation<br />

are looking for experiences that<br />

can get them their money’s-worth.<br />

Recent research showed 49% of<br />

Gen Z’ers said their online image<br />

is on their mind when they go out<br />

socialising and drinking, so they’re<br />

focussing on experiences that look<br />

good for the camera.<br />

“ In fact, year-onyear,<br />

the number<br />

of photos taken in<br />

social environments<br />

increases 10-14%<br />

each year, meaning<br />

showcasing an<br />

experience is one<br />

of their key factors<br />

when looking for a<br />

night out. “<br />

With 48% of Londoners alone<br />

aware of the term ‘competitive<br />

socialising’, the trend is snowballing<br />

as more customers and venues<br />

adopt the trend.<br />

How to adapt your venue for<br />

competitive socialising<br />

<strong>The</strong>re are a range of activities<br />

that users are looking out for in<br />

an experiential night out, from<br />

traditional games, to virtual<br />

experiences, there’s plenty<br />

available to choose and excel at!<br />

Whether it be a new take on a<br />

classic table tennis table, mini-golf<br />

course or shuffleboard arena, or a<br />

more progressive activity such as<br />

axe-throwing, virtual reality gaming<br />

or escape rooms - the possibilities<br />

are endless.<br />

And what’s more exciting about<br />

this sector is that it’s possible<br />

for any venue to incorporate<br />

some competitive elements into<br />

their existing offering without<br />

completely redefining their<br />

proposition. It’s time to get in on<br />

the action and explore how you<br />

can maximise this large and ever<br />

growing nightlife trend.<br />

So I should just jump in?<br />

Well, almost. <strong>The</strong>re are some things<br />

that venue owners should take into<br />

consideration before adapting their<br />

venue for competitive socialising.<br />

Our top three tips for you are:<br />

Get a decent booking system<br />

Competitive socialising activities<br />

are in high demand. Venues need<br />

to put in place a booking system<br />

to ensure the product is used<br />

efficiently and safely - and this can<br />

also help with recording usage.<br />

Increase security<br />

Increasing your offering and<br />

footfall can put pressure on your<br />

existing security. Review the<br />

potential risks of your current<br />

security setup, and ensure you’ve<br />

got a sufficient security resource<br />

available.<br />

Competitive socialising<br />

venue insurance<br />

Adapting your offering and<br />

bringing in new equipment will,<br />

unfortunately, have an impact on<br />

your insurance. However, talking to<br />

a competitive socialising insurance<br />

expert will ensure that you have the<br />

best cover at the most competitive<br />

price for any adaptations you might<br />

want to make.<br />

NDML are insurance specialists<br />

and proud supplier partners<br />

with Gamechangers, meaning<br />

our services are available at the<br />

best rates for all Gamechangers<br />

members.<br />

To learn more about keeping<br />

your venue protected and<br />

on the cutting edge of the<br />

industry, visit NDML.co.uk<br />


48%<br />

of Londoners are aware of the<br />

term ‘competitive socialising’<br />

Oliver Calvert, Head of<br />

Brand & Marketing of<br />

Romero Group<br />

30<br />






“ You don’t need<br />

to create a whole<br />

new business or<br />

rent an event<br />

space – you ARE<br />

an event space! “<br />

Have you ever been to a Christmas<br />

party that hasn’t quite hit the<br />

mark? I’ve never really understood<br />

the appeal of paying a premium,<br />

deciding on what you want to eat<br />

from a limited menu three months<br />

in advance, having an (at best)<br />

average meal, and chatting to the<br />

3 people nearest to you before<br />

heading home. It seems I am not<br />

the only one.<br />

<strong>The</strong> rise in companies offering<br />

Christmas parties for hundreds<br />

of people in huge marquees<br />

with quirky costume themes,<br />

entertainment, casinos or race<br />

nights and more has been huge in<br />

recent years. But you have all that<br />

already! You don’t need to create<br />

a whole new business or rent an<br />

event space – you ARE an event<br />

space!<br />

Based in the ‘burbs of Hampshire,<br />

our company Christmas party<br />

options used to be incredibly<br />

limited without heading into a city<br />

centre, but the rise of competitive<br />

socialising venues has even<br />

reached us, and themed crazy golf<br />

and party darts venues are just<br />

down the road…and it’s about time.<br />

People want to be entertained –<br />

especially in the party season.<br />

<strong>The</strong>y want something different,<br />

something experiential, something<br />

fun, and they will spend money to<br />

get it. With Christmas menu prices<br />

in a standard casual dining venue<br />

at £30+ for three courses (never<br />

mind the drinks!), companies,<br />

friends and family could instead be<br />

spending that on a fun, interactive<br />

night out with you that they will be<br />

talking about for years.<br />

Now, I’m not saying that you have<br />

to rework your entire menu to have<br />

Christmas themed Feliz Navi-dogs<br />

and Bauble Burgers - but adding<br />

a festive option to your existing<br />

offerings can give you some big<br />

wins this year.<br />

Time Trap in Reading have just<br />

launched their brand new race<br />

rooms, where two teams battle<br />

to be the first to escape – and I<br />

personally can’t think of a better<br />

way to pair team building with fun<br />

(but I am a huge fan). <strong>The</strong>y have<br />

cleverly made these rooms so that<br />

they can theme them for Halloween<br />

and Christmas – with some minor<br />

tweaks – whilst also making them<br />

accessible all year round.<br />

After an hour of hilarity, people will<br />

want to carry on the party, so if you<br />

don’t offer drinks or food, make<br />

sure you collaborate with another<br />

business locally that does – cross<br />

referral works a treat for bringing<br />

you both customers you might<br />

never have found!<br />

Whatever you are planning to make<br />

the most of this festive season, I’m<br />

sure it will sleigh…sorry, not sorry.<br />


Against washout summers and set course meals for Christmas<br />

work parties, utilise your space with competitive socialising to<br />

boost your venue’s edge, come rain or shine.<br />

Summer 2023 in the UK was a<br />

bit of a wash out, let’s be honest.<br />

<strong>The</strong> late heat wave might have<br />

been great for smug staycationers<br />

with no kids, as they enjoyed the<br />

September sunshine in an empty<br />

Cornish pub’s beer garden, but for<br />

some of our hospitality venues, it<br />

was too little too late.<br />

For me, that is the biggest win for<br />

competitive socialising though…<br />

If it’s a bit grey and rainy, where<br />

better to go than karaoke, a bowling<br />

alley or sports bar? As we head into<br />

cooler weather, people start to plan<br />

for outings that don’t rely on clear<br />

blue skies, and never more so than<br />

during the festive season.<br />

Molly Davis, Head of<br />

Communications for BII<br />

32<br />





JAN - Party Time!<br />

Time for a big reset to prep for<br />

the new year.<br />

Throw a carefully planned and<br />

marketed NYE party of the<br />

century, wrap up any straggler<br />

events on Jan 2nd and sign off<br />

for well earned quiet period!<br />

Now’s the time to reward<br />

your hardworking staff, who<br />

missed out on all the fun with a<br />

generous party on you to help<br />

them ‘blow off steam’.<br />

that’s right - 12!<br />

FEB<br />

- Data Analysis<br />

This is your chance to examine<br />

the data. How did you do?<br />

What worked, what didn’t?<br />

Where are the missed SpH<br />

opportunities? What challenges<br />

and opportunities does this<br />

year’s calendar present?<br />

Now’s the time for a careful<br />

review of the season and<br />

to respond with a first draft<br />

business plan, including your<br />

intentional marketing budget<br />

for the festive season ahead.<br />

MAR<br />

-<br />

Opportunity<br />

Hunting<br />

As the darkness starts to lift<br />

and spring breathes new life<br />

into your energy reserves, take<br />

the opportunity to contact<br />

suppliers with your Christmas<br />

plans.<br />

<strong>The</strong> earlier you secure supplier<br />

sponsorships and deals, the<br />

more likely you are to benefit<br />

from their budgets before<br />

they’ve spent them. <strong>The</strong> early<br />

bird secures the print budget<br />

for their marketing assets.<br />

APR<br />

-<br />

Get Down To<br />

Business<br />

Time to revisit your business<br />

plan and nail down the details.<br />

By now you should have an idea<br />

of your Christmas offer and it’s<br />

target revenue and profitability.<br />

Explore as many partnership<br />

and supplier opportunities as<br />

you can, and take consultation<br />

on marketing strategies.<br />

Knowledge is power. Why plan<br />

with pure optimism, when you<br />

can define your spend, revenue,<br />

and profitability using proven,<br />

expert advice.<br />

Christmas comes early in hospitality -<br />

in fact it never goes away. Alex Lewis<br />

lays out the 12 steps to a successful<br />

Christmas, so you can schedule your<br />

optimal plans across the calendar year.<br />

MAY<br />

- Content Creation<br />

Content is king. Create it early.<br />

You can always produce more<br />

tomorrow, but if you miss<br />

the boat now you might find<br />

yourself taking blurry, panicked<br />

photos on your iPhone later.<br />

By May you should be: giving<br />

your creative team the go<br />

ahead; pre-buying digital<br />

ad spaces (before the price<br />

goes atomic); planning your<br />

digital and print ad ideas; and<br />

capturing all of the Christmassy<br />

photos and videos you’ll need -<br />

at a cut-price shoot.<br />

JUN<br />

- Build Your Bases<br />

Well here we are again..<br />

Summer has just begun and<br />

it’s time to dust off the santa<br />

suit and pre-launch the early<br />

bird Christmas packages to<br />

corporate spaces.<br />

Hopefully you have a good<br />

database to work with. At this<br />

point you need a really good PR<br />

team behind you, and ideally,<br />

targeted digital marketing<br />

support to help you secure<br />

those early sales and grow your<br />

first party data base.<br />


JUL<br />

-<br />

Prepping For <strong>The</strong><br />

Public<br />

AUG<br />

- LAUNCH!!<br />

SEPT<br />

OCT<br />

- Sell, Sell, Sell - Get Tactical<br />

NOV<br />

- Christmas Mode<br />

DEC<br />

- CHRISTMAS!<br />

Keep the corporate push<br />

running in the background, begin<br />

awareness marketing to the<br />

public, and start your recruitment<br />

and resourcing journery.<br />

Even if the messages don’t hit<br />

the press yet, journalists have<br />

started making enquiries and<br />

you want to be one of the first<br />

they hear about from your press<br />

team.<br />

Exactly when your promotional<br />

team pull the trigger depends<br />

on your product, but by now<br />

everyone needs to know what<br />

the offer is and have their plan in<br />

place.<br />

Drop Christmas - hard!<br />

Newsletters, go live on your<br />

website, digital marketing, PR,<br />

print materials.<br />

Hopefully you have achieved<br />

a succesful pre-launch phase<br />

and towards the end of<br />

August you’ll move onto a less<br />

generous early bird offer. This<br />

is your chance to follow up and<br />

close warm leads.<br />

Depending on your plan, this is<br />

the busy reservation and upsell<br />

phase. You’re in the press,<br />

everyone is resharing your<br />

Instagram ads, your ticketing<br />

partner is reporting record<br />

sales...<br />

You should also be on final<br />

stage interviews with staff. If<br />

you’ve planned early enough,<br />

you should have a great pool of<br />

best-in-the-market individuals<br />

to carry you through Christmas.<br />

If you haven’t sold out the<br />

bulk of Christmas within the<br />

October period, that’s OK - but<br />

you should be making some<br />

serious headway by now.<br />

October is the time to get<br />

tactical: return to bookings to<br />

upsell; revisit leads that have<br />

dropped off; review your digital<br />

marketing, refresh your content<br />

and hone your offerings.<br />

With Halloween out of they<br />

way, your venue should be<br />

ready to miraculously switch<br />

on Christmas. Get ready to<br />

crack open the mulled wine<br />

and singlehandedly reduce the<br />

productivity of the average UK<br />

worker by about 25% for the<br />

next two months.<br />

Top tip: Check the performance<br />

of your tech early in the month.<br />

Your digital & PR campaign will<br />

be humming in the background<br />

to keep footfall coming in, and<br />

mop up any extra NYE sales<br />

whilst they’re at it.<br />

You’ll be too busy serving<br />

satisfied customers, checking<br />

Google reviews and responding<br />

gladly to glowing Facebook<br />

feedback to focus on much<br />

else. After all you need to be<br />

ready for NYE and to do it all<br />

over again.<br />

Alex Lewis, Co-Founder of<br />

Purists of Play<br />

34<br />



150% BOOST TO<br />




We make it easier for customers to find your business. Once they<br />

know where to find you, it’s only a matter of time until they visit...<br />

How can Location Bank<br />

assist you?<br />

As an operator, one of the key<br />

challenges is ensuring visibility<br />

so that customers know where to<br />

find you. <strong>The</strong> internet is obviously a<br />

great help here.<br />

This is where Location Bank<br />

comes into play. As a location data<br />

management platform, Location<br />

Bank plugs your information<br />

into 98% of the world’s online<br />

mapping platforms: Google, Apple,<br />

Facebook, Waze, Here, TomTom<br />

and TripAdvisor. We make sure<br />

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conducting a search related to your<br />

business.<br />

Location Bank also ensures an SEO<br />

boost, making your venue among<br />

the first listed on any internet<br />

search. We achieve this through<br />

tools like Reputation Management,<br />

which gathers all reviews about<br />

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dashboard, making it easier for you<br />

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positively impacts search engine<br />

algorithms, which tend to favour<br />

brands that are seen to have an<br />

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An issue which is very common<br />

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Location Bank ensures that all of<br />

your location data is correct so<br />

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brand is assured that wherever<br />

they find you, your details – from<br />

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pages - are correct. This is crucial,<br />

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your business. Location Bank are<br />

the only platform to offer this data<br />

cleansing service.<br />

How do our services work?<br />

First up - We have to cleanse your<br />

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details through our proprietary fourtier<br />

cleansing system to ensure all<br />

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Next, we apply our SEO solution<br />

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Finally, we use tools like<br />

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Why is consolidating your<br />

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Think about what you do when<br />

searching for a product: whether<br />

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competitive socialising concept,<br />

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Additionally, consumers don’t just<br />

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Simply put, maintaining a single<br />

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But the benefits go beyond this: as<br />

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How can you utilise data to<br />

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You’re probably curious about your<br />

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from and how they found you - did<br />

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Having visibility of this information<br />

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your audience more precisely.<br />

Location Bank helps you gather<br />

these insights through online<br />

analytics tools that reveal your<br />

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performance. We make all of this<br />

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Plus, receive a 360-degree view<br />

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reports are generated in seconds<br />

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What are common mistakes<br />

in establishing an online<br />

presence?<br />

Most people don’t realise how<br />

accuracy and consistency affect<br />

their ranking in online searches.<br />

In fact, these attributes are critical.<br />

As most Google searches are<br />

conducted on mobile devices,<br />

Google looks to rank and display<br />

businesses in local proximities<br />

according to how relevant they<br />

are to the search - and how active<br />

those listings are.<br />

An SEO-friendly venue locator is<br />

the first port of call for Google<br />

when searching for the most<br />

accurate location information – so<br />

if your details are not in the correct<br />

format, Google may skip over you<br />

when it returns the top search<br />

results. Many businesses shy<br />

away from rectifying this because<br />

they believe implementing this can<br />

be costly, but Location Bank offers<br />

affordable solutions for businesses<br />

of all sizes.<br />

James Hemsley, Managing<br />

Director of Location Bank<br />

Advertorial<br />

Finally, many businesses neglect<br />

to harvest information from their<br />

digital engagements. This is a<br />

huge lost opportunity. Those clicks,<br />

views and impressions can give<br />

you rich insights into who frequents<br />

your venues, when and why, and<br />

knowing this allows you to speak<br />

to your audience more accurately.<br />

Many businesses fall into the trap<br />

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vast amounts of data available<br />

can be intimidating – but Location<br />

Bank makes it easy to cut through<br />

to what matters, and all of this can<br />

be easily done through our online<br />

Reputation Management suite.<br />

Is social media important? Is<br />

a web presence enough?<br />

<strong>The</strong> fact is that you need both. As<br />

an operator, your brand’s website<br />

is the ideal space to offer deeper<br />

information about your business.<br />

Plus, it serves as a home base for<br />

all customer engagement, and it<br />

plays an essential role in boosting<br />

local SEO and visibility.<br />

That said, your social media<br />

presence is also essential, by<br />

supporting the information on<br />

your website, whilst featuring timesensitive<br />

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specials and upcoming events.<br />

Many business owners are put<br />

off by the thought of the work<br />

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available on Location Bank, you can<br />

schedule and publish posts when<br />

it suits you—making it easier to<br />

maximize the impact your business<br />

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customer engagement and brand<br />

awareness.<br />


36<br />





BAR<br />

Advertorial<br />


“Sport is a real puller for us in terms<br />

of our proposition and forms part of<br />

our marketing communications.<br />

Customers come<br />

to play and enjoy<br />

TNT Sports live at<br />

the competitive<br />

socialising chain.<br />

Whether it’s axe throwing, karaoke,<br />

beer pong or interactive darts, you<br />

can do it all at Boom Battle Bar.<br />

<strong>The</strong> bar group has 28 sites in the<br />

UK, another on the way and has<br />

just opened up its first international<br />

venue in Dubai.<br />

As well as providing customers<br />

with some of the very best of<br />

competitive socialising, Boom<br />

Battle Bars are also great places to<br />

watch live sports.<br />

Guests can enjoy all the latest<br />

action on TNT Sports, whether it be<br />

midweek UEFA Champions League<br />

football, the best in domestic and<br />

European rugby or some of the<br />

biggest fight nights on the calendar.<br />

It means that customers stay<br />

before and beyond the allocated<br />

times of the activities they are<br />

taking part in.<br />

Marketing manager Emily Davies<br />

explains: “Sport is a really good<br />

example of an area we are really<br />

investing in.”<br />

“All the new sites that we open have<br />

projector screens and we try to<br />

understand where sport fits from a<br />

regional point of view, on a site-bysite<br />

basis.”<br />

With venues all across the country,<br />

Boom Battle Bar will showcase<br />

local teams as well as action that<br />

will appeal to general sports fans.<br />

It adds another element to a<br />

business that prides itself on being<br />

able to entertain all.<br />

“We are a chain of epic bars that<br />

has everything under one roof to<br />

bring people together to have a<br />

great time.”<br />

Emily continues: “It’s a one-stop<br />

night out. <strong>The</strong>re are loads of places<br />

you can go where you might have<br />

an amazing cocktail but the DJ or<br />

the atmosphere might not be great.<br />

What we try to do is provide all of<br />

these elements and more under<br />

one roof.”<br />

She adds that the customer base<br />

and reasons for visiting varies from<br />

site to site.<br />

“Lakeside in Essex for example is<br />

massively popular for sport and if<br />

there is a big boxing event on you<br />

won’t get a table unless you book<br />

two weeks in advance. At other<br />

venues sport might be more of a<br />

secondary thought, where after<br />

a darts game you might want<br />

to catch the second half of a<br />

match, but here...<br />

“ We are<br />

all about<br />

atmosphere and<br />

nothing really<br />

brings people<br />

together like<br />

sport does. ”<br />

For more information visit<br />

www.tntsportsbusiness.co.uk<br />

38<br />




M.I.R.A.C.L.E<br />

Bums on Seats are hosting their first-ever sales training workshop<br />

for individual delegates!<br />

This interactive sales workshop is guaranteed to drive those all-important bums on seats and grow both guest<br />

rapport & revenue, leading to all-year-round loyalty. Director of Training, Dee, will host the day and cover the<br />

following important topics:<br />

<strong>The</strong> Big Apple<br />

Understanding the “low hanging fruit” market<br />

opportunities remaining for 2023 and how to<br />

prioritise converting this business.<br />

Proactive people<br />

We will guide you through the most effective<br />

approach for proactively outreaching into your<br />

community to ensure a sell-out Christmas.<br />

NEW<br />


THE GAME<br />

Want <strong>The</strong> <strong>Oracle</strong> to showcase or attend an opening?<br />

Get in touch today to appear in <strong>The</strong> <strong>Oracle</strong> & on our socials.<br />

Boom Battle Bar threw a banging party to celebrate the launch of their new Canterbury<br />

venue with the message to not get FOMO come down and see for yourself. <strong>The</strong><br />

opening is the 29th from the rapidly growing group in the UK, with another site also<br />

recently opening its doors in Dubai.<br />

<strong>The</strong> Path Entertainment Group has secured the licence for Cluedo (Clue in the US<br />

and other territories) and will be opening venues following in the footsteps of their<br />

other brilliant association with Hasbro, Monopoly Lifesized. <strong>The</strong> location and dates<br />

are currently under wraps but <strong>The</strong> <strong>Oracle</strong> is keen to get on that guest list!<br />

<strong>The</strong> Everywhere Group has revealed that between November 15th and January 6th if<br />

you go to the railway archways in London’s Waterloo you will discover a secret, hidden<br />

and magical Christmas dive bar. Here you can join Santa at an immersive experience<br />

at his favourite watering hole, Humbug, as he attempts to get back to his good ‘elf’<br />

following the pressures of the North Pole and his bustling workshop.<br />

Flip Out, the leading trampoline & adventure park, opened the doors of their new venue<br />

In Odense in Denmark, saying it is ‘Just the tip of the iceberg for our International<br />

plans…’ <strong>The</strong> soft launch on October 12th saw a queue of more than 300 people waiting<br />

to try out the coolest venue in town. <strong>The</strong> <strong>Oracle</strong> is going to watch that space…<br />

WHAT’S NEW<br />

Creating guest experience<br />

Practical steps to follow that will deliver a<br />

memorable guest experience.<br />

DETAILS:<br />

Wednesday 18th October<br />

10am - 5pm<br />

210 <strong>The</strong> Strand, London, WC2R 1AP<br />

£250+VAT per delegate<br />

Lunch and refreshments are provided,<br />

along with a digital version of our takeaway<br />

actions and tips to put straight into practice.<br />

Locking in the best possible lasting<br />

impression<br />

Why converting enquires quickly is so crucial.<br />

How upselling and increasing your SPH leads to<br />

improved guest satisfaction.<br />

Festive efficiency in sales<br />

Smart solutions to remain effective in the busy<br />

run-up to Christmas.<br />

Perfect for hospitality sales managers, sales executives,<br />

Christmas champions or operators who want to maximise<br />

Christmas pre-booked sales.<br />

More news from overseas as Topgolf opened in New England, USA on October 6th<br />

with a whopping 102 outdoor climate-controlled hitting bays, a full-service restaurant<br />

and more than 200 HDTVs.<br />

<strong>The</strong> <strong>Oracle</strong> was delighted to head to the relaunch of All Star Lanes<br />

in Westfield, Stratford. All Star Lanes have maintained the retro vibe<br />

we all know them for whilst combining a trendy food and drink offer.<br />

New food concepts will be ‘popping up’ shortly with street food menus<br />

including growing brand Hash Hut.<br />

Guests included local businesses and friends of the venue who were<br />

treated to welcome drinks and canapes. Monster provided<br />

a pop up bar with mixologists adding theatre to every<br />

cocktail including a scrummy no-alcohol mocktail.<br />

Meanwhile, guests were entertained by a live band<br />

and DJ who pumped out tunes. A relaunch they won’t<br />

forget!<br />

Limited spaces are available so email us at train@bumsonseats.org to secure your spot today!<br />

Get in touch today oracle@gamechangers.org.uk<br />

40<br />




REVENUE.<br />



LOYALTY.<br />



Join Gamechangers TODAY!

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