Taking flight again
There’s no denying the past year has been a roller coaster. It’s a cliché, but it’s accurate. But, looking back, I’m incredibly proud of not just the Red Engine team but our industry as a whole. The resilience, determination and care that has been shown has been incredible to see and I think we’ve all learnt a lot.
With a roadmap in place and dates to count down to, our priority remains our customers and what they want. We’ve always put the customer at the heart of everything we do. It might sound obvious but having clear customer archetypes to structure campaigns and ideas around has been key this year more than ever as we’ve moved in and out of various tiers, lockdowns and rules.
Initially, we’d planned to reopen all sites (six Flight Club branches across London, Manchester and Birmingham, and Electric Shuffle in Canary Wharf) on 17 May, given their predominant “inside” focus. But, following massive demand, we’re pushing ahead with our outdoor spaces from 15 April at Flight Club Victoria and Flight Club Islington. Then from 29 April, Flight Club Shoreditch and Electric Shuffle’s terraces will also open. Finally, after 207 days, Flight Club Manchester, Birmingham and Bloomsbury will reopen in May. Our customers said they wanted to socialise with us so, of course, we’re happy to oblige.
Our mission is to redefine moments with friends. By that, we mean, creating an experience you won’t forget; sparking joy, making memories and, quite simply, providing escapism from normal life – something we need more than ever after the year we’ve all been through. So, our focus ahead of launch is to remind people of that joy and the fun they can have with us and, once our doors reopen, we’ll be ramping that up even more. For us, the joy comes from being present and making up for missed moments in great surroundings with the people you love. It’s all about reminding people why they love going out, whether it’s a beautiful setting, delicious food or simply to have a drink expertly made.
In a sense, we are fortunate because our venues are well set-up for social distancing. With semi-private playing areas and tables with “press to order” buttons, the layout and experience hasn’t changed dramatically. While we added the relevant personal protective equipment, hand sanitiser stations and social distancing in the kitchen, we worked hard to build these elements seamlessly into the customer journey so their experience remained positive. Our marketing last year focused on reassuring people and reminding them of our experience; a semi-private space in a familiar setting, which played to our favour. We actually had people coming back more often in a shorter time period than pre-covid. As restrictions ease this summer, ensuring our customers continue to feel comfortable when they join us will remain a priority. We’re all keen to return to how things were but we should also recognise there will be a period of “easing out” while we all readjust to the “new normal”.
Despite everything, we have a hugely ambitious year ahead. We’ve used the past year to plan as much as possible; refining our offering, reviewing our products and looking at what else we can do to remain spectacular. We plan to bring our experience to even more people. In June, we’ll finally open the doors to Flight Club Leeds (which we were due to launch in summer 2020) and we have two more venues coming before the close of 2021. We’re also extending our fizz hours, launching brunch on Thursdays and Fridays, and both Flight Club and Electric Shuffle will see the introduction of epic new games.
I feel hopeful about the future. It feels good to have more certainty for our industry and, of course, we hope that when we do reopen our doors, it will be for the last time. Time will tell but I’m confident that venues committed to giving their guests a unique and memorable experience will succeed. I personally can’t wait to see every pub, bar and restaurant back open and doing what we all do best – bringing joy.
Juliette Keyte is marketing director at Red Engine, the team behind Flight Club and Electric Shuffle