One eatertainment chain is taking a shot at making the mini-golf course the next hip city hangout.
Though the primary focus of Texas-based Puttery is the game—it’s backed by an $10 million investment from pro golfer Rory McIlroy—the growing brand aims to offer a two-pronged experience, allowing guests to purchase a round of golf or simply a round of drinks, depending on their mood.
“Folks nowadays really want to partake in the experience versus just sitting at a bar,” said Hana Khouri, CEO of Puttery’s parent company, Drive Shack Inc. “Or, you know, maybe they don’t want to experience anything, and they just want to sit at a bar, so we wanted to be able to offer both of those.”
Khouri said that in creating the concept, attention was paid to every little detail.
“When you walk into a Puttery—the music, the lighting, the decor—everything, really, sets the mood for you to kind of just want to sit there and hang out. And that is a hard thing to obtain,” she said. “The overall experience, from top to bottom, has to be exceptional. And I really think that is kind of what sets us apart.”
Additionally, Puttery differs from many other eatertainment concepts in that its venues are 21 and up.
“While we don’t dislike having children in our establishments, we really wanted to focus on providing a social experience for adults, and I think that is where we vary the most,” said Khouri.
The brand also ditches an old-school aspect synonymous with the mini-putt course: the paper and pencils used for keeping score. Here, they’re supplanted by digital scorecards at each hole, where guests enter their scores.
Puttery’s menu features scratch-made pizzas, salads and a variety of appetizers, such as a charcuterie board and sous vide pork belly. Signature cocktails include the Margarita Standoff, a mix of blanco tequila, pineapple, spice and lime, and the Augusta Sunset, with vodka, Aperol and lemon cordial.
Khouri said they wanted to offer drinks that were unique but not unfamiliar.
“What we’ve done is, we’ve really paid extra attention to our food and beverage because we want it to be just as good as the game itself,” she said. “We wanted the beverages to be elevated, but not so elevated that when you’re reading the menu, you’re like I have no idea what I’m ordering.”
The first location opened in September 2021, and its fifth recently opened in Chicago. So far, all are in major cities.
Khouri said that Puttery plans to open several more locations, with the goal of reaching 50 by 2024. Units will debut next year in New York City, Miami, Kansas City and Minneapolis.
The Chicago venue is 23,000 square feet and features two 9-hole themed courses—the library and the lodge—each of which has its own exclusive drink menu. The unit is located in Chicago’s Fulton Market District, a bustling neighborhood that has boomed in recent years.
Khouri said that Chicago’s demographics and population density make it an ideal market for the brand.
“Chicago was always one of our top markets,” she said. “The walkability, I think, is a key thing for us that we don’t have in some of our other markets.”
Impacts of COVID-19
While many entertainment concepts struggled during the pandemic, Khouri said Puttery was lucky with its timing, opening up as COVID restrictions eased.
“We started on [the concept] before COVID, and then, obviously, the world kind of paused during COVID and that gave us a little bit of time to roll out, more time than we would have liked,” she said, “but it gave us additional time to really go back through what we already thought of what Puttery was and we used the opportunity to really define that.”
Now is the perfect time to grow an entertainment concept, according to Khouri.
“Because of COVID, I mean people have been inside their houses or in their trusted circle or trusted group of friends or family for a couple of years. As of last year, when things started to lift a bit, people just are excited to be entertained and to be able to go out again,” she said. “I think now is a really good time to introduce something like this into the market. Because people are just really excited and really receptive to try new and different things.”
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