'We plan to continue creating innovative concepts in different spaces' says Puttshack boss

By Stuart Stone

- Last updated on GMT

Top Vrankin: Joe Vrankin says Puttshack appeals to a huge demographic
Top Vrankin: Joe Vrankin says Puttshack appeals to a huge demographic

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Indoor mini golf concept Puttshack’s expansion has been in full swing since a £30m equity raise in 2019. We teed up CEO Joe Vrankin to discuss the group’s forward drive.

Founded by a three-ball of Steve and Dave Joliffe – the creators of Topgolf – and Adam Breeden – who chipped in after working on similar competitive socialising concepts All Star Lanes, Bounce and Flight Club, Puttshack has been on a roll since completing a £30m equity raise, with lead investor Promethean Investment, in June 2019.

After unveiling a debut site at Westfield Shopping Centre in White City, west London, in 2018, the group grew to Intu Lakeside in Essex before flagging venues in Bank and a £5m site in Watford as its next club members.

Here, CEO Joe Vrankin explains how the company is driving the concept.

Why do you feel that competitive socialising concepts like Puttshack are doing so well at the moment?

We are seeing a market shift in all aspects of the hospitality and leisure market – with 55% of consumers preferring events or attractions that include an experiential element. People are increasingly interested in experiences rather than material things and, from this trend, great competitive socialising concepts such as Puttshack have emerged, giving guests an alternative and more immersive day or night out.

Social media has also been a huge driver of the rise in interactive and immersive concepts. When it comes to social media platforms, people have become more concerned with visual storytelling. Competitive socialising businesses often make for engaging ‘Instagrammable’ content that excites consumers and creates a buzz around the concept.

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What expansion plans do you have in the next 12 to 18 months?

We have been really pleased with how quickly we have expanded. The original Puttshack opened in July 2018 at Westfield London White City and we now have three sites in the UK as well as a site confirmed in Watford. We have also expanded into the US market, securing three leases signed in Atlanta, Chicago and Miami in the US. It is great to see how well received our concept is and we plan to continue on our rapid expansion. It is a really exciting time for Puttshack and we do have plans to announce more openings – so watch this space.

We are also continuing to expand our team. We are recruiting ambitious experts in all areas of the business to ensure that we have the best people around us throughout our rapid expansion and beyond. Most recently, Susan Walmesley, who is based in Chicago, joined us as chief marketing officer. The journey of Puttshack’s growth has been greatly positive so far and we are really excited to continue on in this trajectory.

What is Puttshack’s typical customer base?

The great thing about Puttshack is its ability to appeal to a whole range of demographics. We incorporate numerous touchpoints which resonate with a variety of interests. For example, our White City venue, located in Westfield attracts many families looking for an alternative group activity during the day. On the other hand, our latest site in Bank – located in the heart of the City of London, attracts many working professionals looking for a unique late-night entertainment.

Competitive socialising concepts enable guests to enjoy an enhanced leisure experience at any point during the day. Also, thanks to our dedication to providing high-quality food and drink, we are able to appeal to avid mini golf fans as well as food and drink fanatics – Puttshack provides an experience for everyone to enjoy.

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What are the most important things to bear in mind when you’re creating a food and drink o­ffer to pair with competitive socialising?

We believe it is vital competitive socialising concepts think about how all aspects of the business contribute to the consumer’s overall experience – hence why having a great food and drink offering at Puttshack is key. As well as keeping on top of experiential trends, for example, with our Trackaball technology, we aim to stay on top of consumer food and drink trends.

We have a variety of ‘feel-good food’ dishes such as sharing platters, pizzas, and burgers, but with the increasing demand for vegan and plant-based foods, we have also developed an extensive vegan and vegetarian offering. Some guests have even mistaken our vegan burger for real meat because it is so juicy.

We also pay particular attention to our drinks offering. At Bank, we currently have 144 different rums because we know rum is experiencing a renaissance and we want to help our guests explore and discover the category.

Is there anything in particular you’re looking to achieve within the business over the next year?

What we have achieved so far has exceeded our expectations, and our guests both old and new continue to respond well to the concept and overall experience. We have managed to build something we are extremely proud of and we are always looking to improve and innovate wherever possible in order to keep the concept fresh and new in consumers’ eyes. For example, we are focusing on our social engagement as well as the development of new packages as part of our existing offering to cater to key occasions.

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We’ve seen operators go for shuffleboard, mini golf, bingo and darts concepts – what do you envisage could be the next sport or game to grab the on-trade’s attention?

With the experience-led market growing year-on-year, new concepts are emerging all the time. It will be really interesting to see which will emerge next. Many of these concepts draw people in because they provide people with a modern and innovative twist on a game they are already familiar with. The competitive socialising space is constantly growing so it is a great industry to be a part of right now.

What do you think have been the biggest challenges of launching Puttshack?

In my opinion, one of the main challenges for Puttshack has also been one of our greatest achievements. The Bank site is located within a listed building and is also an asymmetrical shape, which proved to be a challenging space to work with but we knew we wanted to make it work.

We discovered quickly our previous designs would not work in this space and, due to this, we had to be really innovative. In the Bank venue, we spent a lot of time experimenting with lighting, movement and colours in order to achieve the look we wanted and we are really proud of the result. As we continue to grow and develop the Puttshack brand, we plan to continue creating innovative concepts in different spaces that excite both new and existing guests.

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