The industry buzz of late has been all about off-premise and even delivery-only establishments. As such, nabbing dine-in customers can be an increasing challenge. But operators are finding creative ways to lure customers inside—while seeking to up dwell times and, in turn, check averages. Here’s a look at how restaurants are upping the ante on on-site entertainment, offering more than just food and drink.
1. Taking a theme to the next level
Pingpong bar chain Spin is launching its seventh unit later this month, a 12,000-square-foot location in Philadelphia with myriad features to keep patrons around: scratch-and-sniff wallpaper that smells like cherries, a retail area peddling branded paddles and other merch, a bathtub filled with pingpong balls, a DJ, 17 Olympic-sized pingpong tables and bleachers for watching matches. Spin has also beefed up its menu in recent years—its latest unit offers shareable bar food like pastrami-topped tater tots and flatbread pizzas, along with cocktails spotlighting local spirits.
2. Haircuts, with a side of food and drink
Whether the growing Blind Barber chain is a haircut place that offers a full menu and cocktails (and a DJ) or a restaurant-bar that offers haircuts is unclear. But the concept—which has units in New York, Los Angeles and, soon, Chicago—is known for an entertaining mix. In addition to hipster haircuts, the menu features more than a dozen grilled cheese sandwich variations (which change seasonally) along with beer, wine and cocktails.
3. Keeping the kids entertained
It only stands to reason that if the youngest diners are happy, Mom and Dad will likely stick around for an extra cocktail or dessert. Counter-service spot Ember + Still in Solana Beach, Calif., takes that idea to the next level with an entire room devoted to activities for kids. The room offers movies, "Pac-Man" video games, Jenga, coloring books and puzzles.
4. Movies, as part of the decor
The newly opened second location of Cha Cha’s Latin Kitchen in Irvine, Calif., projects black-and-white movies onto one of its dining room walls. The images complement the full-service restaurant’s upscale, modern vibe while giving diners something to look at that branches out from the typical in-house TV programming.
5. Cocktails go high-tech
Baptiste & Bottle, the restaurant on the 20th floor of the Conrad Chicago hotel, made headlines earlier this summer for its $95 cocktail experience that includes a virtual-reality headset. Guests strap on the VR viewer and are immersed in scenes from the Macallan distillery while the bartender mixes a drink made with sherry and scotch. The cocktail is served in a wooden box filled with moss and other vegetation to further enhance the experience.
6. A nod to the state fair
Seventh Street Truck Park, a new food truck-food hall hybrid in St. Paul, Minn., accentuates its playful vibe with a range of fitting entertainment options. The 8,000-square-foot space features games like ring toss and basketball toss, as well as a gambling wheel. The owner plans to host live music, comedy and celebrity chef pop-up events.