Robert Thompson, best known as the founder of the Punch Bowl social entertainment concept, is preparing to launch a chain of restaurants and games focused on the growing pickleball trend.
Camp Pickle will feature a nostalgic “1940s national park/summer camp” motif, with a food and drink menu designed to match, Thompson told Nation’s Restaurant News. Indoor/outdoor locations are expected to be 55,000 to 75,000 square feet, with 10 to 14 pickleball courts, as well as other “old fashioned” games such as bowling and darts.
Sometimes described as a cross between badminton and ping-pong, pickleball is increasingly enjoyed by people of all ages and is seeing strong growth among millennials and Gen Z players, Thompson said. The sport attracted 4.8 million participants in 2021, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, representing 14.8% growth from 2020. It grew at an average rate of 11.5% per year over the past five years, the SFIA reported.
Thompson said Camp Pickle’s first location is expected to open in Huntsville, Alabama, in early 2024, followed by another in Denver later that year. It plans to have 10 company-owned sites by the second quarter of 2026, in markets such as Atlanta, Dallas, Minneapolis and others across the country.
“Our approach is to create these food and drink centric social game activation concepts in large environments, both for people a la carte on the street and large enough for large corporate event opportunities. said Thompson.
He expects Camp Pickle to generate around 80% of its sales from food and beverages, with a menu created by his new hotel and restaurant business, Angevin & Co. In keeping with the camping theme, the menu will offer dishes over a wood fire. cuisine, with some Mexican influence, said Thompson.
Drinks will include full-size cocktails inside old Coleman coolers — “kind of a ‘nod’ to camping culture, perhaps,” he said.
Entrees will be priced in the low to mid-teens and sandwiches between $10 and $15. Average tickets are hard to predict in concepts like this because of the variety of uses, Thompson said. Some customers will come just to eat and/or drink, and others to enjoy a combination of games, meals and drinks.
Plans call for customers to order at the counter or from their table using QR codes. Servers brought food ordered at the counter to tables using geo-trackers.
Thompson predicts that 35-40% of sales will come from corporate events.
Although he declined to comment on expected costs and revenue, Thompson said he has read reports of similar concepts that cost between $10 million and $18 million to open and drive around 700 traffic. 000 customers per year.
Each Camp Pickle location will likely employ about 200 to 250 people, he said.
Other concepts in the pickleball space include Kansas City, Mo. Chicken and picklewhich has six locations open and several more in development.
In keeping with the camping theme and his company’s focus on reducing its carbon footprint, Thompson said the construction of the Camp Pickle concept will feature solid wood materials. Solid wood prices have come down to the point where they are on par with steel, he said.
Thompson also said Camp Pickle will represent his first foray into franchising, and he has already had discussions with potential franchisees.
“There are a lot of real estate developers and wealthy individuals who own land and see an opportunity to do something with pickleball, or wealthy people who are just obsessed with pickleball and want to own one,” he said. -he declares. “So instead of them losing over $10 million…without the professional experience of managing and operating entertainment, we will sell them a franchise. We will design it, build it, if they want, and we’re certainly interested in managing it for them.
Separately, Thompson said another entertainment concept he was working on, Jaguar Bolerawhich will also offer bowling and other social activities, is set to open in Raleigh, North Carolina, late next year.