September 21, 2022
Robert Thompson, an “eatertainment” mogul who’s been in the game for 25 years, is ready to take a swing at his first sports-centered offering: a 1940s-inspired pickleball experience, reports Restaurant Dive.
Camp Pickle, as it is called, shares many of the defining characteristics of Thompson’s earlier concepts: sprawling space, gourmet eats, craft beverages, and a sharp eye for trendy, Instagrammable design. But the new concept’s footprint— between 55,000 and 75,000 square feet—and its target audience dwarf the reach of predecessors like Buffalo Billiards, Punch Bowl Social and Jaguar Bolera.
“The facilities are larger than anything I’ve ever done before. Prior, the largest space I developed was 32,000 square feet.,” Thompson, founder of hospitality concept group Angevin & Co., said.
Each Camp Pickle location will have space for a mix of 10 to 14 indoor and outdoor courts, depending on market size, as well as additional attractions, Thompson said. Visitors are not required to order food to book court time; which costs between $20 and $40 per hour, depending on the market.
“It’s still always about using social activations, whatever they may be—bowling, karaoke rooms, pool tables—it’s all about using that as a magnet to bring in and socially activate guests all around food and beverage and a design for experience,” he said.
Camp Pickle will debut in Huntsville, Alabama, in 2024, with a second location to follow in Denver. Thompson also is eyeing at least 13 other markets—among them, Nashville, Tennessee; Atlanta; Raleigh, North Carolina; Minneapolis; and Jacksonville, Florida.
The eatertainment brand won’t be breaking ground on a new niche, however. Rival concepts Chicken N Pickle, Smash Park, and Electric Pickle have been operating in the pickleball-eatertainment lane since 2016, 2018, and 2021, respectively.
Still, Thompson expects to scale quickly, targeting ten openings by Q1 2026. Angevin & Co. will primarily seek out suburban markets to accommodate these locations—which require up to five acres of space, if self-service parking is included, alongside outdoor facilities like fire pits, tent cabanas, and space for large private parties.
“Pickleball appeals to 8-year-olds and 80-year-olds, families and singles, small groups and corporate events. Every walk of life is playing pickleball right now,” he said.
That pool of potential customers is slated to grow, too. Some experts project that 40 million people will be playing the sport by 2030, up from estimates that nearly 8 million are playing today.
Research contact: @RestaurantDive