Swingers is opening its first site in the United States this summer in Washington DC, with another soon to follow in New York City.
The crazy golf brand, which has two venues in London, will open its third location in Washington DC's Dupont Circle on 11 June, with two nine-hole courses inspired by 1920s English country golf clubs, a clubhouse, five cocktail bars and local street food vendors.
Parent company Competitive Socialising has partnered with DC-based Knead Hospitality and Design, which has created a new food and beverage concept for the location and will be installing some of its existing food brands at the site. Like Swingers West End, both US sites' food offerings will include dessert vendors.
A fourth location is set to open at the end of the year in New York City's Flatiron District in the basement of the new Virgin hotel. The 23,000 sq ft venue will be the first of the group's locations to have three golf courses.
Chief executive and co-founder Matt Grech-Smith told The Caterer expansion to the States had been in the planning for around five years as the group wanted to "put a stake in the ground" while the competitive socialising market in the US was still "relatively nascent".
"For London we felt that that [two] was probably the right number, any more and you might start to cannibalise your own business," he said.
"We looked at other UK cities and we definitely have plans to go to them at some point, we were just aware that in the US there are lots of cities the same size and mass as London. It came down to opportunity really, from both a time and funding perspective, and we decided to prioritise the US."
He believes Swingers will be just as popular post-pandemic with people looking to get away from their computers and have some fun socially when government restrictions permit, evidenced by the short period the sites were able to operate between July and October 2020 when tickets were selling out every day.
Competitive Socialising secured £28m from Cain International in 2018 to launch a second competitive leisure concept in the UK and pursue openings in North America, and recently announced a further $20m (£14m) of follow-on funding from Cain towards further openings in the US after DC and New York City.
The team is working on a pipeline of "a couple of venues [opening] a year" in the US from 2022 onwards in cities that have a good corporate density, dating culture, good food scene and an after-work drinking culture.
"In the US that applies to quite a number of cities, so we are looking across all of them at the moment to find the right location for Swingers," said Grech-Smith. "We're poised to take advantage of opportunities as and when they arrive."
Although he said the team has "a number of ideas" for new concepts, those plans are on ice for the moment until the London sites are back open and "on an even keel", as he anticipates corporate groups will be slower to return.
"It's been a rough ride for all of our teams, so the first thing is to get the doors back open again," he said.
"We're definitely conscious of getting our timing right in the UK, so the first priority is getting the business back to where it was. We've always got one eye out looking for great sites in the bigger cities of the UK and there are undoubtedly some good property deals to be had, [but] at the moment all of the energy is behind Swingers. It's a proven concept and we've got such exciting opportunities for it… That's where the focus is going to be for the time being."
Jonathan Goldstein, chief executive at Cain International, added: "We remain hugely confident in the ongoing appeal of unique experiential leisure concepts, as well as in Jeremy, Matt and their team as they look to continue the growth trajectory that the Swingers brand has been on since Cain's initial investment in 2018. There is an exciting pipeline of opportunities for the team ahead and we are thrilled to both bring the concept to a new market and reopen the very popular sites in London."