Richard Beese, Director of Boom: Battle Bars, identifies the concept as the next evolutionary step within this sector. Beese, who is also the co-owner of the Flip Out indoor adventure park franchise, says that his entrepreneurial drive stems from an accident that happened to him in 2004.
Beese started as a stockbroker, moving to London from Bristol. Here, he lived a work-hard, play-hard culture; young and affluent, he succumbed to the lifestyle, and a feeling of invincibility that came to an end with an incident that left him alive, against all odds, but minus a leg.
After a midweek drinking session celebrating his boss’s engagement party in a nightclub, Beese found his way into the tube station. He fell asleep on a platform, and, later, contrived to fall onto the tracks.
The events were pieced together from CCTV footage at a later point. Beese wandered into the tunnel, where he remained for hours, still blacked out. He came round to see the lights of an approaching train and managed to cram himself into a small access doorway, minimising, but not preventing, the passing train’s impact.
When the train drew to a halt in the station, he was found. Somehow, he had escaped stumbling onto the live rail, being run over, or bleeding to death before discovery. Once he was back to health, the narrow escape ordered his priorities and stoked his ambition. His progress is an object lesson in making the most of the life he was given back.
A second chance
Beese’s first step was to become a founding partner of children’s care home operator SureCare Residential. This organisation provides accommodation, education, therapeutic support, and guidance to children with emotional and behavioural difficulties. Once the business, which makes children’s welfare and education its absolute priority, was established, he and his partner took on more of a consulting role. This freed them up to look around for additional opportunities.
This was the point at which they became involved with Flip Out as franchisees. Within a few months, they had opened the first attraction. Inside three months, they opened the second. Before long, they were owners of the UK master franchise.
With the Flip Out FEC market covered, Boom: Battle Bars are the next opportunity Beese has seized. Boom is, the company claims, the UK’s fastest-growing competitive socialising concept.
Boom: Battle Bars
Retail is struggling globally. In the UK, for retailers already facing difficult trading conditions, the pandemic has been the final straw. Lately, Debenhams has joined a long list of familiar names relegated to the high street’s past: Mothercare, Beales, Carphone Warehouse, Woolworth’s, Cath Kidston, Oasis, & Warehouse, as well as Arcadia stores such as Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Evans, Miss Selfridge and Wallis.
As high street properties become empty, experiential companies such as Boom: Battle Bar are stepping into the breach. This reflects the growing move towards the collection of experiences and memories rather than material goods.
Beese explains the ethos behind Boom: Battle Bar and outlines his strategy of fast growth throughout the COVID-related lockdowns.
“The Boom: Battle Bar concept came from wanting to create something fun for the 18-30s market, like Flip Out but for the bigger kids,” he says. “We wanted to appeal to an older market, with an interactive socialising concept. Boom: Battle Bar is competitive socialising. It has axe throwing, shuffleboard, crazy golf, AR darts, beer pong and much more.”
Aimed at millennials, Gen-Z and fun-seeking Gen X, the fast-growing chain features activities that encourage people to compete. For instance, Bavarian Axe-Throwing, Crazier Golf, Electric Darts, Shuffleboard, Beer Pong, Skee-Ball, Boom: Battleground and anything else that the owners come up with in the name of competitive fun.
Combined with great street food, photogenic cocktails and the brand’s BOOM: BATTLE BEER, the concept is designed to grab attention and to capitalise on the fact that consumer drinking habits are changing. People want activities, rather than a passive experience.
The company has used the lockdown period to focus on continuing growth.
“We are expanding at a rate of knots,” Beese says. “We are building bars right now, we opened up bars in Norwich and Cardiff both in and out of lockdown. Norwich opened in August, Cardiff opened in November, then we were locked straight down. We’re building one in Liverpool and then we’ve also got Aldgate East in the City of London, The 02, Lakeside Shopping Centre, Coventry, Eastbourne, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Oxford, and tons more.”
Focused on fun
Boom: Battle Bar epitomises a light-heartedness Beese predicts will characterise the end of the pandemic.
“Boom: Battle Bar is focused around fun,” he says. “We sell fun as our main product. I think, for people’s wellbeing, they will be craving this sort of interaction as soon as it becomes possible.”
During the day, families are welcome, with some of the activities geared to all ages. Then, after 7 pm, the venues are for the over 18 age-group only.
“Boom: Battle Bar is about so much more than just going out and getting drunk. You meet up there, you challenge your friends, and you have fun. You are competing and doing stuff that is completely out of the norm.”
“In terms of growth plans, Boom: Battle Bar is seizing the opportunity. We’re still building, through COVID.”
A further six sites are being constructed.
“And we are going to keep on going,” adds Beese. “Because we’ve managed to work out some good deals with landlords that love our offering and are willing to support us through COVID and out the other end. We’re using our own money, so even if we don’t open up for the next two years; even if the bars stand idle, we will be ready when the sprawling across the country when they do reopen
“We expect to have 20 by the end of the year. And when the restrictions are lifted, we’re ready to go.”
Boom: Battle Bars – a COVID proof attraction
The attractions are, effectively, COVID-proofed; an enviable situation.
Boom: Battle Bars fit into the category of retailtainment. The concept ticks many boxes in terms of emerging trends: interactivity, competitive socialising, hosting many activities under one roof, photogenic cocktails, and the house beer.
One key factor Beese is particularly proud of is job creation:
“We expect over 1000 jobs to be created, something we’re excited about,” he says. “Boom: Battle Bars are a franchise [as well], so we’re going to grow fast. We’re going to innovate, we’re going to start using more and more technology.”
“Augmented reality darts, for example, is very much at the forefront of innovation. We’re doing quite a bit with augmented reality in the bars, especially with bowling. We’re even going to be the first indoor curling bar in the UK. Curling will be one of the attractions, so you and your mates can go and rent a curling lane, which will also have augmented reality.
“We’re also looking at putting in a Rage Room. So you can pick the music and pick your weapon of choice to smash stuff up: computers, furniture. There will be a big glass wall, so while you’re having a beer, you can watch people really going for it, which is fun. And if it doesn’t work, we’ll take it out.”
A modular approach
The system is modular, which means it can evolve and change according to people’s preferences. Each attraction will be unique, reflecting the interests and preferences of its specific clientele.
“It’s unique in that respect. With competitive socialising, we realised there are a lot of great offerings out there. But they’re all one-dimensional products. Our approach is to put everything we can think of under one roof. People want to do different things.”
Over the last year, there has been a great deal of demand from people keen to buy into a Boom franchise. This phenomenon does not surprise Beese, who cites the appeal of a proven model, and the number of people who find themselves, currently, in search of new opportunities.
Boom: Battle Bar expands overseas
Additionally, he says:
“With Boom, we are moving Stateside. We have two pretty big franchisors who want to take Boom to America and roll it out there, and to Australia, and France, as well, which is exciting.”
In a post-vaccination world, he envisages more growth:
“People aren’t going to want to stay in. They’ve been going crazy. I think, too, they’re going to want to try something new, something a little bit different.
“We’re seeing people setting more goals, and wanting to try new things. I spoke with a friend yesterday who said COVID had made him look at things in a new way. He said, ‘I’m going to say yes to everything.’ That’s a widespread feeling now. You don’t know what else is going to happen.
“For Boom, I think we could have 75 because our Boom sites are about 10,000 square feet, but they could easily go bigger. They could go to 50,000 square feet; have it more glamorous, have more activities.
“The Boom logo is an octopus. Each tentacle holds an item – an axe, a pool cue, a golf putt, a table tennis bat, a cocktail. It’s immersive branding. We’ve got it all over the place, on all sorts of obscure objects – a giant cyborg; a 7 ft ape dressed in an astronaut suit. It’s just fun. It’s just mad.”
A playground for adults
The multi-activity venues are, essentially, a playground for adults, using technology to enhance competitive games, with the addition of food, cocktails, and the eponymous Boom: Battle Beer. Perhaps wisely, alcohol consumption is prohibited before axe-throwing, however.
Every site is bespoke – similar to the Flip Out concept:
“You’ll know you’re in a Boom because of the branding, but every site is different and unique. We have our own beer and are about to launch a line of merchandise.
“We just want to start trading now. If you’re poised to grow, as we are, it’s a fantastic time,” he concludes. “We can either sit still and wait the situation out, or we can just keep going, which is what we’ve opted to do.”