One of our recent initiatives here at The MBS Group has been to make office activities more about inter-team bonding and promoting collaboration. Although we love to go for a drink at our local pub here in Primrose Hill, The Queen’s, we’ve started to branch out more into different activities across the city – which is how we found ourselves playing mini-golf last week on courses featuring a motorboat, a billiards table and a playground slide at Junkyard Golf in London’s Shoreditch.
As a people professional, I have always been a big advocate of team bonding outside of the office that brings employees to work better together within the office. A research paper from Small Group that looks at 103 case studies conducted over the course of over 50 years provides scientific evidence that team building can have measurable, positive effects on team performance.
This is no secret to many of the biggest companies in world which are known for their on-campus amenities, including cooking classes and a bowling alley at Google and ping pong tables for employees at digital wealth management firm FutureAdvisor. Lacking the space to have our own cinema here at the Mews, we’ve outsourced our team bonding to the wealth of activities across London.
Team building can have a measurable, positive impact on performance
Leisure companies outside the realm of travelling and dining aren’t that new – but they also aren’t so numerous. Go Mammoth was founded by Luke Mohr in 2010 as a social sporting club, providing indoor and outdoor sports leagues for adults in London. He was inspired by the world-renown Chicago Sport and Social Club, which reportedly turned over US$7m in 2013. The UK leisure industry is worth £200bn and provides 2.6 million jobs nationally, but we hear far more about employees going for a “cheeky pint” after work rather than going for more interactive activities.
Enter the ‘social entertainment’ concept: a business that recreates a leisure pastime with a new, sexier venue, bringing colleagues together for an activity that combines three main elements of hospitality: bar, restaurant and entertainment activity. Founded in 2012 by Adam Breeden and Dov Penzik as an “adult playground“, London-based Bounce is exactly that: its two cavernous underground spaces are interspersed with a total of 28 ping pong tables and a gin bar featuring a myriad of cocktails. No longer are ping pong tables located in the back of the bar – customers can book tables for groups of between six and twenty people, taking over much of the floor space of the venue. With table service and an extensive menu featuring pizza and bar snacks, customers are treated to a experience far beyond that of the local community hall.
With its flagship venue in Farringdon located on the very same site on which the game of ping pong was first created, the company has proven itself expert in revamping the game to cater to the new generation – and it does, with customers ranging from FTSE 100 company events to millennials throwing a birthday party. And with a new venue just opened in Chicago – and plans to head East, with Hong Kong and Tokyo at the top of the expansion list – Bounce could prove to be the concept that unites truly global teams.
Another one of Adam’s ideas on his path to creating an underground revolution is Flight Club, which launched in London’s Shoreditch last September. Founded alongside Steve Moore and Paul Barhan, the company plans to repopularise and redefine old-school sports in a more social context, integrating technology to recreate pub favourites.
“Anything people engage with that has action, fun and competitiveness where you can have a drink in one hand is basically going to work” – Adam Breeden, Bounce co-founder
According to Adam, both concepts work because people like being active in an environment surrounded by energetic people. He says: “Anything people engage with that has action, fun and competitiveness where you can have a drink in one hand is basically going to work.” And he would know – after graduating from business school in Paris, the entrepreneur set up the award-winning cocktail bar The Lonsdale in London’s Notting Hill before going on to found tenpin bowling concept All Star Lanes in Shoreditch.
What the concepts really do is close a gap in city socialising. Until now, professionals leaving work in the afternoon had the choice to head to the bar or to go do an activity – be it a running club, the cinema, or otherwise. By fusing activities with food and drink, Adam targeted the middle ground between those two categories – and he hit the bullseye. According to him, “All Star Lanes demonstrated that people wanted to engage in fun activities as part of a night out, especially as part of a larger group – a market sorely under catered for.”
“People want to engage in fun activities as part of a night out, especially as part of a larger group” – Adam
A cursory search for the term ‘social entertainment’ on Google returns more results about social media than about interactive activities, and research shows that adults are checking into their social media accounts up to 40 times per day – nearly three times per waking hour! While social media has empowered countless individuals globally with a voice, a platform and an audience, it has also kept us from spending more time together in person. Could Bounce and Flight Club be part of a revolution that turns the definition of ‘social entertainment’ from a screen-based activity to an in-person one?
With strength and growth of the digital world, it can be challenging to fight back and to create an experience-based business. But as live interactions between coworkers decrease with the rise of apps like Slack and the incessant use of email, this new version of ‘social entertainment’ could be what we need to stay strong as a team.