Business Focus: Flight Club

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Flight Club and Red Engine
Credit Flight Club and Red Engine

We sat down with Steve Moore, founder and CEO to discuss his vision for the business, the inspiration behind it and plans for 2024.

Q. Tell us about how Flight Club was founded and the vision behind it?

A. My group of friends have always looked for something different when arranging our nights out, adding some kind of game or activity to liven things up. So, in 2012, when co-founder Paul Barham and I saw a group of young people going crazy over a game of darts in a Devon pub, our interest was piqued. The game they were playing wasn’t like traditional darts, this was loud, fast and exciting.

We saw an opportunity to reimagine darts for the 21st century and combine that with the warmth and nostalgia of a traditional British pub. This new concept would become what we call Social Darts. Getting the idea off the ground with no experience in hospitality or technology meant we needed to surround ourselves with people who knew what we didn’t and call in a lot of favours!

After two years and a million test darts thrown, Flight Club went from an experience that only existed in my garden shed, to our very first venue, which opened in Shoreditch in 2015.

Q. Why do you think the concept of Flight Club is so popular in the City?

A. Flight Club and Electric Shuffle – our second concept (launched in Canary Wharf in 2019) – are experiences that have been built for friends, by friends. When we came up with the idea, we knew we wanted to create something memorable that offers more than your typical pub or bar experience. I think that’s what resonates with our customers. It offers the best bits of a pub or bar, with the addition of fast-paced games that anyone can get involved with and enjoy.

It’s widely reported that Gen-Z are drinking less than any other generation, and people are becoming more considered about where they are spending their time and money. People want more from their nights out and both Flight Club and Electric Shuffle deliver this.

They’re also extremely versatile concepts. Their appeal spans so many groups of people, whether that’s friends getting together, date night, multi-generational gatherings or corporate events.

Corporate events form a big part of our customer base because we can accommodate 350 people playing together at once.

Q. What’s been your biggest accomplishment since setting up the business?

A. Where do I start. When we set ourselves the challenge of making darts cool again, never in our wildest dreams did we imagine that after launching our first venue in Shoreditch back in 2015, we’d now have 20 Flight Club venues and five Electric Shuffle sites across the UK, the United States and
Australia.

Looking back, surviving Covid has been a big one. During this time, we focussed on our infrastructure, developing our games and systems, so that when we were able to reopen it was in the strongest position possible. To have not only survived but thrived is a huge achievement.

Taking both concepts Stateside and Flight Club Down Under is up there too. The success blows our minds daily.

Q. What do you love most about Flight Club?

A. The ability to give people truly unexpected, ridiculous, joy. It’s our strapline but it came from real reviews, written by our customers, and now we centre everything that we do around it.

When you walk into our venues, you see people letting loose, having fun, caught in the moment and no one is looking at their phones – which is a rare thing these days. The fact that we can deliver that escapism and joy to our customers is something that never gets old and is why people continue to come back.

Q. Talk us through some of the hurdles you’ve faced in setting up the business in the City and how did you overcome them?

A. As with setting up any business, there are always challenges – no day is ever the same and that’s what makes it so exciting. The first for us was taking Flight Club and Electric Shuffle from ideas in ourheads and turning them into something real.

When we launched our first venue, Flight Club was a completely new concept. Competitive socialising was in its infancy. There was so much to get right (and wrong!) – the tech, creating the perfect setting, customer experience, food – the list goes on. Every detail had to be carefully thought out and we spent two years working on and perfecting it. The next and ongoing challenge has been to keep things fresh and new for our customers so that they continue to come back. It’s an ever-evolving experience that we are constantly innovating and iterating.

Q. The constant train strike continues to be a struggle for all. How does this affect business and how do you overcome this?

A. It’s certainly a challenge and we’re hopeful for a swift resolution – it’s been a thorn in the side of all hospitality business owners over the past year. Even if strikes are cancelled at short notice, often the damage is already done for so many.

Our approach is to closely manage all our bookings and events with the aim of transferring them to later dates. We try to offer flexibility to our customers as much as possible to avoid disappointment and give them the experience that they were hoping for, even if that means not on the date they had originally planned. It’s because of this approach that we hosted a lot of 2022 Christmas parties in Q1 of last year.

Q. What are the characteristics of a successful business owner in the City?

A. Warmth, passion, togetherness, innovation – those values run through everything we do, and I believe it’s those values that have got us to where we are today.

I think it’s also so important to get comfortable with being the least knowledgeable person in the room. Don’t try to know everything. You can’t. Call on experts to help you get to where you want to be. And most importantly, it’s a cliché but it’s true – don’t rest on your laurels. You must be continuously innovating to stay relevant and possess a positive relentlessness that drives you to always strive to be better, always keeping the customer in mind.

Q. What advice would you give to people who aspire to open their own business in the City?

A. Be bold and comfortable with taking calculated risks, surround yourself with experts and learn learn learn – there’s no such thing as a silly question!

Q. Are there any other similar competitive socialising businesses that you admire in the City?

A. Plenty – the quality of interior design and experience that Swingers is delivering to its customers is something that we have a lot of respect for, and the success that they’re now seeing Stateside is testament to that. State of Play is another operator that we admire. Their Bounce ping pong concept was one of the first in the competitive socialising space and Hijingo bingo is truly a one-of-a-kind example of revitalising an old, classic game.

Q. What’s in the pipeline for 2024?

A. It’s a busy one! We’re opening three more UK venues, Flight Club Oxford, Flight Club Liverpool and Electric Shuffle Manchester. In the US, we have Electric Shuffle NYC opening this year, along with Flight Club Philadelphia and Washington. Flight Club Sydney and Melbourne will also be popping up Down Under. And lastly, we are hopeful that we will bring another London site to the mix, but more to come on that! On top of all the new openings, we are always looking to evolve and develop our brand and existing sites.

Our franchise partners State of Play Hospitality and NightOwl Entertainment have helped us take the concept to the United States and Australia respectively.

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