“Eatertainment” Is Taking Over The Restaurant Industry

Restaurants are increasingly offering eatertainment experiences where diners participate in events like trivia games as they dine.

By Charlene Badasie | Published

Eatertainment refers to restaurants that offer more than just a meal. These restaurants also provide an immersive entertainment experience for their customers, which can take many different forms. This includes anything from theme nights to interactive dining experiences, where customers are encouraged to participate in the entertainment.

The concept emerged in the early 2000s as younger consumers preferred experiences over products. Several new eatertainment concepts have grown in popularity in recent years, and they all prioritize activities equally. Still, Megan Fitzgerald, the director of brand experience at Talea Beer Co. in Brooklyn, wasn’t convinced it would work at the female-founded brewery.

She pleaded with friends to attend the bar’s first trivia night, fearing that no one would show up. To her surprise, over 70 people arrived to participate in the eatertainment. That’s when Fitzgerlad realized that people crave experiences during their nights out. “They want something enriching and engaging and more than just taking shots or slamming beers,” she told CNBC.

“Trivia is easy and fun, good for big groups or couples, and you can find it usually just down the block,” Fitzgerald added. After partnering with the NYC Trivia League for a few weeks, she noticed that the bar earned almost double its revenue compared to regular nights. Nearly 20 trivia teams arrived for the weekly eatertainment resulting in increased food and beverage sales.

Bar staff also earned more tips. Speaking about the popularity of eatertainment, NYC Trivia League founder Cullen Shaw said teams are larger following the pandemic. He added that switching to digital platforms also made the activity faster and more efficient. Shaw said the game’s popularity piqued the interest of venues that “never saw themselves as trivia bars.”

As a result, the league has become more selective with venues and hosts. “I’m sure there are a million trivia apps, but there’s just something about a group competition,” Shaw told CNBC. “There’s something about community when like-minded and competitive people get together in a space to play a silly game, but everybody understands the rules,” he added about eatertainment.

Eatertainment venues are not limited to bar trivia nights. The concept has expanded to restaurants that offer several activities, including football bowling, retro-style arcade games, ax throwing, baseball facilities, sand volleyball, and more. These activities appeal to many people, from families with young children to groups of friends looking for a fun night out.

This makes eatertainment an excellent option for special occasions or events where people want something unique. But hosting these activities can be challenging as they require a significant investment in decor, technology, and staff to create a truly immersive experience. Venues must also balance their games and food quality, which should remain the core attraction.

While restaurants are the most common type of eatertainment venues, the concept can also be applied to other businesses. For instance, some movie theaters introduced dine-in options where customers can order food and drinks during the film. Some businesses offer interactive cooking classes or wine tastings as part of the experience.

Millennials and Gen Z are among the biggest fans of eatertainment, with many seeking out unique and immersive experiences to share on social media. As such, promoting these events on social platforms can effectively attract new customers and create a sense of community around the event.

Bars and restaurants can share information about the night’s theme and encourage customers to share photos and posts about the event. This can increase the venue’s visibility and make it a go-to destination for eatertainment enthusiasts.