Red Engine

Game on

Competitive socialising is the way forward


With passion as a core business value, the attention and care we put into our venues is what makes us stand out.

Juliette Keyte

Marketing Director, Red Engine

Red Engine

Red Engine sets out to make sure experiences are memorable, through the attention to detail lavished throughout its venues and products. Founded in 2015, the business has generated buzz with its reinvention of darts and shuffleboard for a new age. 

As inflation soared, the team at Red Engine was braced for a setback in the phenomenal growth of their competitive socialising brands. However, the first quarter of 2023 saw their UK venues notch up revenues unmatched outside the Christmas peaks.

“We were thinking we would have to be cautious about our hopes for the year,” says Marketing Director, Juliette Keyte. “But what we saw was while people are going out less, they are spending more when they do, because they’re treating each outing as an occasion. People still want those moments of release and a good time.”

“Built by friends, for friends”, the business draws in social groups and work colleagues to play Flight Club and Electric Shuffle, and to enjoy food and drink in spectacular surroundings.

Red Engine

A unique, successful experience

Target audiences

The crowds playing in a Red Engine venue tend to be different from a stereotypical image of darts or shuffleboard players. Their core target market is females in their mid to late 20’s who are looking to be the first to try something new and fun while knowing every detail covered.

“A bar can feel hostile. But in our experience, if you create products that appeal to those willing to be more adventurous, you can create a warm and welcoming environment that embraces you in a way that a bar doesn’t.” Juliette explains.

Corporate bookings make up 40% of Red Engine’s business. The competitive element of the Red Engine experience helps to overcome some of the awkwardness of workplace socialising, and allows for an experience less focused on vertical drinking.

The post-pandemic shift in working patterns has not dented this trade, but has helped to spread it through the week, Juliette notes: “When people do go into town for work, they’re quite happy to have a night out with colleagues. In our Birmingham venue, for example, we now see more trade much earlier in the week.”

New launches, fresh ideas

The company resists a “cookie-cutter” approach. Each venue is different, from the 650-capacity venue with a helter-skelter staircase in London’s Victoria to the more intimate Islington destination, which boasts an orangery decorated with grandfather clocks. And despite its success to date, Red Engine is taking nothing for granted in the run-up to this year’s openings in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

“We do dozens of trips to try to understand a new city,” Juliette says. “We only go to a place if we believe we can add something new there. We do a lot of focus groups to make sure we’re using the right messaging.” So the Birmingham opening, for example, leaned heavily on Red Engine’s track record in London, while Manchester’s launch carefully avoided that theme.”

As new venues are opened, the learning is used to update existing sites. “We’re constantly refining our interior design and looking at how we can improve,” Juliette adds.

“When people are rightly being more careful with their money and going out less, they want to be in a place that’s stunning, where the food and drink is the highest quality. And if that’s not the case, you’ll certainly hear about it.”

Surprise and delight

Red Engine has its own tech team, which designs all the software for the games. Their efforts ensure, for example, that teams can check on their performance against potentially hundreds of others in the venue in real time.

The team has developed an action replay function to capture key moments, which are then packaged and sent to participants after their visit, in a feature dubbed ‘Stories’. This helps to overcome the tendency for participants to be too preoccupied with games to capture their own social media content.

While it never offers discounting, Red Engine strives to encourage return visits through “surprise and delight”, says Juliette. It is currently investing in a new marketing suite to complement its CRM system, allowing segmentation based on customer interests.

Loyal team

Red Engine currently has 13 UK venues and is expanding its concept to the US and Australia with franchise partners State of Play Hospitality (FS US) and NightOwl Entertainment (FS Australia), where there are now nine in total. 

This enables the business to offer its team development opportunities in other geographies, as well as across functions. “We have people in tech who started with us as barbacks, for example, and we have managers who are moving to our Australian operation,” Juliette says. “The fact that we can take people on these journeys is something they buy into.”

Alongside its core values, which include ‘warmth’ and ‘togetherness’, these opportunities have helped Red Engine to build a loyal team: many employees have been with the business since its early days.

Working with Barclays

Barclays continues to work with Red Engine to promote the continuing growth of its footprint in the UK and the US.

An innovative funding solution, together with the company’s existing cash resources, is helping to fulfil the company’s ambitions.

Our support has also helped Red Engine to significantly increase their staffing levels. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the Red Engine central team has grown from 40 to 112 staff to support their ambitious growth plans. This will increase further as more jobs are created to support the brand’s growth.


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