Here at Brand Vista, competitive socialising and its increasing success has been a hot topic of conversation recently. Its popularity in the hospitality sector continues to grow as more consumers look to combine drinks, or a meal out, with an experience they can’t get at home.

With that in mind, we decided to pay a visit to Flight Club, the home of social darts, described as having an ‘electric atmosphere’ and ‘mind-blowing experience’. Flight Club is the product of an idea conceived by co-founders, Steve Moore and Paul Barham. They saw an opportunity to reinvent darts, after seeing a young crowd of friends going crazy over a game of darts in a local pub, back in 2012.

Having heard only great things, we were excited to experience the ‘unexpected, ridiculous joy’ that the brand promises.

Booking – I had anticipated it being relatively quiet on a Monday evening, but when booking for a large group of us I noticed there were limited time slots left. So, I eagerly booked a timeslot without having confirmed final numbers to make sure we bagged ourselves an after-work session.

When the confirmation email came through, I was delighted to find out that each oche (playing area) can host 12 players, and that we could add more players on the day. This flexibility allowed us to decide nearer the time who could or couldn’t make it.

Whilst booking for the team, I did look and try to book for myself and a few friends but noticed that the booking system doesn’t cater to groups of 4 or less after 4pm. Instead, small groups can only turn up on the day and hope for an empty oche to be available. I was a little confused as to why there couldn’t be a few smaller playing areas for those wishing to play in smaller groups. Something that seems such a simple solution.

Arrival – On arrival, we were greeted by a friendly host who directed us to the check-in desk. Once checked in, we were chauffeured to our private oche, and a member of staff explained the different features of the playing area and how to set up our player profiles.

We ordered some food platters and pizzas to share, and plenty of drinks of course! Whilst waiting for drinks to arrive, we set up our profiles and before we were finished drinks had already arrived. Check out our mug shots below.

Atmosphere – The workday was done and there was a buzz in the air. The bar was busy with those socialising over drinks, whilst the playing areas were full of groups of friends out to have a good time and secretly hoping to win a game or two.

The dark wooden panels and leather Chesterfield-style seats reflect that of a traditional British pub, whilst the bright lights, vibrant colours and props bring all the fun of a Victorian fairground. The music played loud enough to add to the atmosphere but quiet enough to allow conversations with friends.

Our oche was raised a level above the bar – the perfect spot to people watch. We had plenty of space to store our bags and coats in baskets underneath the tables, so they were out of the way whilst we were playing and seats around the back of the oche to watch one another play.

Food & Drink – A report by KAM Media (Competitive Socialising Report 2022) that was recently shared around internally, suggests that 46% of consumers are more likely to want food they can eat with their hands at a competitive socialising venue and 43% of consumers are more like to want shareable food.

As we intended to play, eat and drink at the same time we were glad to see the menu wasn’t short of sharing platters and finger food. We ordered pizzas, Padron peppers, Korean beef skewers, buffalo popcorn chicken – all the finger food, you name it!

Food arrived promptly and we tucked in right away. The sharing platter was full of flavour and the perfect nibble in between turns, so much so that we ordered some more.

A nice touch when it came to F&B was the ability to call over a member of staff by requesting service through the click of a button. It meant that we didn’t have to leave the oche to go grab another drink at the bar and we could focus on having a great time together without any disruption.

Service – There was no shortage on staff or compromise on the service, something we have seen quite a lot of during and since the pandemic. There was always somebody on hand to help – whether that be with food and drink orders or support when playing the game.

Helpful and enthusiastic, the staff seemed passionate about their jobs and were there to make sure each and every customer could effortlessly enjoy their experience, so they need only focus on having a good time.

Social Darts – After setting up our player profiles, we were presented with a range of games to play that varied in difficulty. The interactive dart boards tally up points on the screen and play back winning shots or games in real time – highly entertaining to see an action replay of people’s concentration faces and wins.

I assumed each game would be played every man for themselves, but most, if not all games were played in small teams. My only niggle is that unfortunately for us this meant that 6 players were paired up and 1 player was left playing solo. The teams seemed to be automatically selected and instead of rotating teams, so that each player took it in turns to play solo, the same 2 players were selected each time. Something that could have been easily resolved by the system rotating solo players or by simply allowing players to select their teams themselves.

Goodbye – It was a nice surprise to receive an email from Flight Club after our visit, with a selection of images, boomerangs and action replays from the experience. We were able to relive moments from our game, especially the action replays that caught moments of joy on camera when we celebrated a win.

Flight Club’s mission is to ‘bring unexpected, ridiculous joy to the experience of every guest who visits our venue’ and the team, plus interactivity of the games, were great at doing just that. I’ll admit I was sceptical as to whether it would live up to the hype, but it did, and maybe even exceeded my expectations.

Though it may seem small, a key highlight of the experience was the ability to call over a member of staff and order F&B at the click of a button. Not only did it take the pain away from queuing at the bar, it also meant we were fully absorbed in the experience and could enjoy every moment without any disruptions.

It is the perfect place for after work socialising and large groups of friends seeking an environment to do more than converse over drinks.

As more competitive socialising venues are starting to pop up across the city, I’ll be interested to see how Flight Club continue to innovate and push the boundaries as others come into play in rapidly growing market.