There are a few reasons for this approach, he adds. One is what Thompson refers to as “surge moments,” which is something large eatertainment complexes have historically grappled with. There are peak blocks where 500 or 600 guests walk through the hour.
“And when you’re doing full service,” Thompson says, “it’s almost impossible to provide quality full service to a guest when you have that kind of a surge.”
The second driver was labor margin. It’s no industry secret counter service enjoys a simpler labor model than sit-down brands. “We’re losing tip credit across the country, right? So our waiters are no longer $2 to $5 an hour employees,” Thompson says. “So to be able to eliminate some of those folks, set all this up in a more service friendly environment that can handle higher volumes at once, is really what—for me—when I stood back and I looked at the larger picture, it felt like a no-brainer to move to this type of service model.”
Yet true to Thompson’s DNA, there will be cocktail service and bars across every venue. And the food—a wood-fired marriage of Southern and Mexican cuisines—will stand apart. One of the defining traits of Punch Bowl Social was the fact food and beverage accounted for 89 percent of revenue. Games, as Thompson once said, were the “cheese in the mousetrap” to bring customers in. It gave millennials what they were asking for—experiential service with the same quality of food and drink they sought in daily restaurant choices.
The key change here is food gets paid through the queue, which allows guests flexibility to roam throughout the facility.
One thing that Dave & Buster’s (taco truck pilot, cart service) have found in recent years is guests don’t always want to stop activities to dine. And this model enables that, Thompson says.