All Grown Up: The Rise of Adult-Focused FECs
They’re hot: digitally enhanced mini-golf, boutique bowling, augmented reality darts, and axe throwing. Pair these activities with sophisticated food and drinks, and grown-ups will gravitate toward adult-focused entertainment centers (FECs).
That’s the belief of Kevin Williams, a leading international specialist in immersive and social entertainment at The KWP Ltd. He’s seen a rise in competitive socializing concepts for adults.
“Many developers of these social entertainment trends come from the restaurant and bar business. Now, conventional FECs and LBEs [location-based experiences] are looking to play catch-up by including an adult-focused space within their entertainment sites,” he says. For example, Dave & Buster’s is adding a Social Bay element—a private suite with high-tech darts and shuffleboard for visitors over 18.
Second-generation restauranteur, advanced sommelier, and former Division 1 basketball player, Justin Amick, has combined his passions to develop a high-end attraction named Painted Hospitality.
He and business partner William Stallworth opened two upscale boutique bars, bowling, and entertainment venues in Atlanta: The Painted Pin and The Painted Duck. At press time, they held plans to open two additional venues, Painted Pickle (December 2023) and Painted Park (January 2024).
“We trademarked the term ‘compeatery’—a place to compete, eat, drink, and be social,” explains Amick, president and CEO of Painted Hospitality. “We weren’t the first to create adult-focused boutique bowling venues, but we brought a fresh lens to the bowling realm.”
Amick and Stallworth wanted to shake up the traditional bowling alley design with The Painted Pin, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2024. It conjures cool British vibes as players lounge on vintage Chesterfield couches. “The aesthetic is very deluxe,” Amick says.
The bar is positioned in the center, serving up cocktails, local and craft beers, and artisanal wines. Visitors can watch mixologists at work while waiting for Neapolitan wood-fired pizzas, tacos, sandwiches, and shareable small plates. “It’s elevated bar fare,” Amick says.
An indoor gaming courtyard separates the lanes. There are 12 lanes on one side and eight on the other, which are geared more toward corporate events.
Guests can enjoy indoor bocce courts, table shuffleboard, oversized basketball pop-a-shots, Skee-Ball, pingpong, giant Jenga, and classic pub games such as darts.
Painted Hospitality differentiates its venues by introducing games most people haven’t seen in the U.S. For example, The Painted Pin has recreated an old British game called Northamptonshire hood skittles, rebranding it as Southern Skittles. There’s also space for live bands and a dance floor.
All the games, apart from the bowling, are complimentary for patrons. “It creates a great perception of value,” Amick says. The games also keep people entertained while they wait for lanes. The waitstaff delivers balls, bowling shoes, and refreshments so guests are free to have fun.
The Amick family built their Concentrics Restaurants group in Atlanta, so it made sense to launch The Painted Pin there. Demand proved so strong that the partners opened a second Atlanta site, The Painted Duck. It follows the same formula as The Painted Pin, although the venues are different experiences.
The Painted Duck is inspired by New England style and pastimes. Amick calls it “a distinguished drinkery, duckpin bowling, and gaming parlor.” It builds on what the partners learned the first time: “We’ve got a bigger bar, a bigger dance floor, a bigger stage, and more games.”
Next, Painted Hospitality is targeting pickleball. Its Painted Pickle venue, located on the Atlanta BeltLine trail, spans 32,500 square feet. Guests will check in at a clubhouse with white Clapboard siding. Painted Pickle has eight indoor pickleball courts, with a bar overlooking the action. The courts’ colors are a nod to Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.
There’s an adjacent food, beverage, and gaming area with a music stage. The menu caters to the wine and cheese crowd with charcuterie, sushi, paninis, and salads.
“In a post-pandemic world, we wanted to ensure we had great outdoor entertainment space,” Amick adds. The Painted Pickle has three patios, with outdoor beach and lawn games. Painted Hospitality’s newest project, Painted Park at Inman Park, leans further into that indoor/outdoor leisure concept. “We have a winning playbook,” Amick says, “but we have diversified our company.”
Tee Off at Topgolf
Topgolf offers more than 90 hightech sports and entertainment venues worldwide. Through a global expansion, the operator now has facilities in the U.S., Europe, the Middle East, and Asia-Pacific. In October 2023, Topgolf and BAJ Golf Development Iberia announced plans to bring venues to Spain and Portugal.
In 2022, Topgolf returned to its British roots with Topgolf Glasgow in Scotland, the first U.K. location to open in 17 years.
Scotland was a natural choice for Topgolf, with its proud golfing heritage and huge golfing community. “Glasgow has a strong reputation as a party city,” adds Simon Green, director of operations at Topgolf Glasgow.
Topgolf Glasgow is a three-story,custom-built venue with 72 all-weather hitting bays that accommodate six players. The venue includes a large events space, two bars, a lounge, and common areas (it is an 18+ venue from 9 p.m.). The facility has a maximum capacity of about 1,800 people.
Employees—known as Playmakers—guide experienced golfers and rookies through the Topgolf experience. In the hitting bays, players aim at giant targets on the field while playing virtual courses like St. Andrews or games like Angry Birds. Players’ balls are microchipped to record their scores. Topgolf’s Toptracer technology traces each ball’s flight path. Guests typically spend two hours there.
Food and beverage (F&B) is a huge part of the business. Topgolf Glasgow has given its authentic Tex-Mex menu a British and Scottish twist, with specials such as haggis nachos.
“As we understand our audience more, we understand how we can make the venue work for them,” says marketing manager Mark Snell.
In the summer of 2023, the venue opened a rooftop terrace with a bar, seating, a live DJ, and HDTVs. “It has a very hip Instagrammable vibe, and it was super popular. A lot of people come just for the terrace bar. It’s enhanced the experience, but it’s also driven traffic,” Green says. With heaters, the team expects it to be a comfortable wintertime space too.
Topgolf Glasgow has engaged with Scotland’s thriving NFL fanbase and will host its second Super Bowl event in February. “NFL fans love coming to Topgolf—it feels like a little piece of America. That’s down to the culture we create and our 250 Playmakers, who are the heart and soul of everything we do,” Green says. Topgolf Glasgow is also due to host its first Hogmanay, a celebration honoring the last day of the year, in 2023. “We’re expecting to be pretty much full for that,” he says.
The team has tapped into the data to tailor its marketing. “When we opened, we noticed that we were very male-led compared to a lot of Topgolfs around the world,” Green says. The marketing team responded by raising awareness that “it can be an event for everybody.”
Repeat guests often wear different hats, so it pays to be alert to the possibilities. Parents coming with their children on the weekend might also be looking for a place for their work Christmas party. “So, we ensure our event sales guys walk the tee line on a Saturday morning,” Green says.
Shared and Individual Experiences
Lucky Folks is the adult-friendly, F&B/games spinoff of the Koezio FEC chain. Bertrand Delgrange, founder and CEO of Koezio, debuted Lucky Folks at the Koezio park in Carré Sénart, Lieusaint, France, right before the pandemic. Guests can eat, drink, and play in a place with vintage midway theming.
Lucky Folks helps “people connect with each other,” Delgrange explains. “You will find a wide choice of food to share, burgers, salads, poke, tapas, cocktails, and many games such as digital darts, shuffleboard, table games, pétanque, karaoke, and quizzes.” The venue hosts special events every month including dance lessons and live DJs.
The move to digital F&B ordering marks one of the biggest changes since its launch. Guests can order via QR codes and an app, as well as pay directly. This frees up staff to play a more active role in the ambiance.
In the Netherlands, people can escape the everyday in the art mazes that Doloris creates. “These mazes are surreal worlds where visitors climb, crawl, and walk over art. Every visitor disconnects from reality, as we don’t allow phones, watches, or bags inside. It is a timeless experience which you enter one by one,” says Doloris founder and owner Joep van Gorp.
Tilburg is home to the Doloris - Art Maze and Rooftop bar. A second venue is coming to Utrecht. The entirely new installation will almost double the size of the Tilburg site.
Adult-focused entertainment centers are proving fertile ground for experimentation and innovation, but success relies on delivering a high-quality experience at volume and a healthy return on investment.