Human contact Is becoming a luxury - The rise of participatory social eatertainment

Technology has been increasingly isolating us from in real life (IRL) face-to-face human contact. What used to be the dominant form of human contact has been replaced by the new ways we digitally communicate today with almost constant connectivity using instant-messaging, social media and other digital technologies. Some observers of the growth in the use of these communication technologies say we are on the precipice of a loneliness epidemic.

Trends are about basic needs, and people always value things that are scarce. Luxuries are either scarce or costly to obtain (whether in time, money or effort). As a result of our growing use of digital communication, IRL human contact has become scarcer. A recent New York Times article, “Human Contact is Now a Luxury Good,” said we are now seeing a trend of the luxurification of IRL face-to-face human contact. It is becoming a status symbol for the higher socioeconomic who spend the least time with these digital devices. Conspicuous human interaction of meeting up with people IRL is becoming a status symbol.

Sherry Turkle has even written two books, Reclaiming Conversation and Alone Together, about the impact of these technologies on our lives and our relationships. She argues that the devices were exacting a steep toll in terms of people constantly choosing to interact with a variety of technologies other than ILR, including even using them with those people present at the same table, what is referred to as “separate togetherness.”

Turkle's research about people and their relationships with mobile technologies has identified the effects digital technology is having on how friends and people interact in the world. She sees a trend called a flight from conversation brought about by texting and social media. Turkle says we, and especially children and younger adults, are developing conversation-phobia. What is happening is that people are preferring texting and posting on social media rather than talking on the phone or having face-to-face conversations. She's asked teens and adults why they preferred text messaging over face-to-face conversation. They responded that when they are face-to-face, “you can't control what you are going to say, and you don't know how long it's going to take or where it will go.”

It is becoming increasing clear that digital technology is shifting our social interaction with each other from taking place in the real world to taking place in the digital world and consequently, ILR get-togethers, talking face-to-face, is rapidly becoming extinct. This means that what was once a primary reason for going out to leisure venues of all types, the socializing, is losing its appeal, as that's what texting and social media on the smartphone is for.

Today, at the newer-model entertainment venues, food and drink makes up the majority of the revenues. Destination-worthy, culinary quality food and drink, including beer, wine, cocktails and craft non-alcoholic drinks along food that has foodie-worthy qualities of adventure, discovery, uniqueness, memorability and Instagrammability, combined with participatory social games creates a compelling IRL social destination, what we call “participatory social eatertainment.” The attractiveness of participatory social eatertainment is confirmed by research by PSFK that found that 69% of consumers say they are more likely to visit a restaurant that creates a space that encourages them to hang out and socialize. The social participatory games combined with destination-worth food and drink facilitate the hanging out, as to socialize, people generally need to be eating something, holding a drink in their hands and/or participating in a social game. Think about bowling, golf, billiards, mini golf, bocce - they have all stood the test of time as they facilitate a social experience. participatory social eatertainment combines them all together as a powerful social attraction. We believe this is what is making participatory social eatertainment popular and driving the growth of its different business models.

Today, to be financially successful, a community leisure venue (CLV) needs to generate 30% or more of its revenues from group business. The one thing you will never be able to do on the internet is hold IRL group events. Participatory social eatertainment has a competitive advantage attracting group business. Research by Technomic found that 70% of consumers prefer to visit eatertainment venues than typical casual dining restaurants for group occasions. "When they get together in groups they want to do something and eatertainment is meeting that need," said Technomic managing principal Joe Pawlak. Those group and celebratory events can range from birthday parties (not just for children), corporate groups, team building, anniversary parties, award ceremonies, to even weddings.

This new business model of participatory social eatertainment explains how disruptive chains such as Top Golf and Punch Bowl Social are grabbing market share from legacy business model CLVs and FECs.