Emerging Brands

Punch Bowl Social plans growth with two acquired concepts

The eatertainment chain plans to grow a karaoke brand and an immersive art experience. Needless to say, both have cocktail bars.
Punch Bowl location
The Punch Bowl Social brand is also growing but requires more real estate. The new acquisitions can move into much smaller locations. | Photo courtesy of Punch Bowl Social.

People like to eat and drink while they’re doing things, said Punch Bowl Social co-founder Robert Cornog Jr.

That’s why the operators of eatertainment concept Punch Bowl Social have acquired two new growth brands that will allow guests to do things while they eat and drink.

The Denver-based company this week announced the acquisition of an immersive art experience in Dallas called Sweet Tooth Hotel.

It’s not a hotel, said Cornog, who is also Punch Bowl’s executive chairman. Rather, it’s a ticketed experience with rotating art installations that guests can engage with in a highly Instagramable way, he said.

Experiences might include a silent disco, for example, a “fiber fairytale” or dancing with puppets. There’s also a cocktail lounge and bar snacks.

Sweet Tooth Hotel

Sweet Tooth Hotel experiences can range from magical to wacky. | Photo courtesy of Punch Bowl Social.

The second acquisition is a karaoke concept called Voicebox, which has two units in Portland, Oregon. Punch Bowl also acquired the software that powers Voicebox, called Lyrical Systems—software that Punch Bowl has long used as a licensee.

Karaoke is an activity at most Punch Bowl locations, but Cornog said he doesn’t see it as competition. Karaoke is just one of the many activities guests might find at a Punch Bowl, but it’s the primary reason for visiting a Voicebox.

The concept offers private karaoke suites that range in size for groups of 25 to 30 or as small as six to eight. Each room has screens and guests can control the music and lighting with their smartphones. They can also order food and drink, and the units also have a central bar.

Voicebox

Voicebox has two locations in Portland, Oregon. | Photo courtesy of Punch Bowl Social.

The plan is to grow both Sweet Tooth and Voicebox as separate brands operated by Punch Bowl, Cornog said. The two new additions also offer an expansion option with smaller real estate needs.

Punch Bowl units average about 25,000-square feet, while both Sweet Tooth and Voicebox look for locations around 5,000-square feet.

“The Punch Bowl brand has always skewed to the restaurant side, the food and beverage,” he said. “We now have the opportunity to engage with a different set of guests with more activity-based experiences.”

Cornog said it’s too soon to say where these two brands will grow next.

Meanwhile, Punch Bowl continues to grow. The 15th location is scheduled to open in Columbus, Ohio, in late summer or early fall.

The brand has been through a lot over the past decade. It was co-founded by Robert Thompson and in 2019 won a significant investment from Cracker Barrel. When the pandemic hit, however, Cracker Barrel divested and the 19 units at the time were forced to close. Thompson left the operation later that year.

The company filed bankruptcy and was acquired by lender CrowdOut Capital, which remains involved, though no longer controlling equity, Cornog said. The company is back to pre-Covid sales and has brought in a family office and others to reinvest in the business.

“Covid and all the ancillary issues are in the rearview mirror,” said Cornog. “We are now on our front foot and looking forward to the future, and these acquisitions are a part of that.”

CORRECTION: This article has been updated to indicate Punch Bowl Social is based in Denver and to clarify that Sweet Tooth Hotel does not have a full kitchen.

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