The Importance of Being a Social Concept

"Social" is all the rage these days. From January 1st, 2018 to the present day, over 55 restaurants opened across the country with the word "social" in their name. And then there's the dozens and dozens that don't use the "S" word in their name, but definitely market the concept.

What does "Social" mean anyway? Essentially, it's the hip younger sibling of eatertainment. When you think of eatertainment, you likely envision a part-restaurant, part-arcade combo. Essentially, gaming concepts like Chuck E. Cheese’s, GameWorks and Dave & Buster’s are very much eatertainment. This concept has grown in popularity over the years. But now, "Social" is taking over where eatertainment left off.

Rather than solely relying on the bells and whistles of a flashy arcade game, Social restaurants encompass an entire hip experience- and usually a very active one. From bowling to miniature golf, karaoke rooms to darts, Social establishments focus on creating a fun factory for patrons…complete with chef-driven menus, beer gardens and artisanal cocktails. Guests are then likely to hang out all night (and spend money all night), rather than just eating a meal and moving on.

And, they're extremely instagrammable. Patrons love taking and posting pics in social establishments. They get the likes, you get the free marketing. Win/win. Plus, let's be real: Social restaurants are also just plain fun. They're like a toned down college party- but with actual good food and kid friendly vibes.

So how can restaurant owners cash in on this new trend? (aside from adding "Social" to their name?). A few ideas:

  • Add variety to your seating arrangements. Instead of only the usual four tops or two tops with chairs, scatter some benches and stools around the area. (Top photo: the side table/stool combo that we made for Punch Bowl Social in San Diego. PBS is the kings and queens of Social vibes.)
  • Incorporate drink rails. These encourage standing- which leads to a more active and energetic vibe. You want people milling about, instead of passively sitting at a table.
The drink rails that we built for Denver's Improper City
 Notice how active and lively the space is.
  • Sprinkle around games and activities. You don't necessarily need bowling alleys or arcade games (although those are awesome!). Giant jenga sets. Ping pong tables. Ring Hook. Shuffleboard. All of these up the energy level, without taking up too much valuable real estate.
    We made this custom ping pong table for Punch Bowl Social in Denver
  • Encourage mingling with community seating. Communal tables work just as well indoors and outdoors. Instead of separating patrons in traditional seating arrangements, mix things up with giant community tables or colorful picnic tables.
    The custom patio table we made for a Denver restaurant, which doubles as communal seating
  • Casual menus. You can still have amazing quality and delectable options, but in a mobile-friendly package. Think small plates. Food truck style. Finger foods. Anything that allows patrons to move around and socialize, versus being stuck sitting down passively the whole time to eat.

In short, to create a Social restaurant, focus on upping the energy level. Get people up and moving. Encourage milling about and casual experiences. Imagine the best backyard party that you've ever been to. How can you replicate that in your restaurant? Experiment with some of our tips above, and you'll be on your way to being Social.