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Retail Destination spoke to the people behind the latest competitive socialising craze, TOCA Social

Earlier this year, The O2 announced the debut launch of TOCA Social, the entertainment and socialising venue with a football twist. Opening its doors on 12 August in a 30,000 sq ft venue at the London destination, the new competitive socialising concept offering visitors a variety of interactive football-based games on 17 interactive playing spaces, as well as a trophy wall with an interactive leader board, three bars, and plans for a Willy Wonka inspired dessert room.

Guests are able to enjoy their own personal booth, with each booth providing space for up to 12 people to ‘play, dine and score’. Visitors also have the option of taking part in an array of football-based games enabled by innovative ball delivery and AI enhanced tracking technology. Founded by two-time U.S World Cup and former MLS and English Premier League Midfielder, Eddie Lewis, the concept is designed for all ages, abilities and football interests.

Retail Destination caught up TOCA Social president Alex Harman to find out more about the latest player in the competitive socialising market about its inception, the response from the public, and future expansion plans.

Where did the idea for TOCA Social come from?

TOCA Social is part of the TOCA Football Inc group, founded in 2016 by two-time U.S World Cup and former MLS and English Premier League Midfielder, Eddie Lewis. Established as a football training experience in the US, TOCA Football always had the ambition to expand its offering and make football fun and accessible to all on a global scale.

A couple of years ago, we attended a footballing conference in the US and to drive excitement on the stand, we created a fun game using the proprietary ball machine, where guests would need to hit a target. We initially thought that the line would be full of kids wanting to play but we were wrong! Everybody attending lined up to have a go. This was when we realised that there was an opportunity to create a football experience that offers people of all ages and abilities the chance to experience football in an environment that is inclusive, unique and immersive.

The competitive socialising scene has seen a large number of new players in recent years and has itself become a competitive marketplace. What is your view on this leisure trend and how do you see yourself fitting into it? 

Competitive socialising is the new way of leisure and entertainment, and I think people now more than ever want to experience things together and as a group. Competitive socialising provides people with memories and experiences, which is an important element to the social scene. Another factor is the diversity of people’s willingness to drink alcohol on a day or night out – some do, some don’t – and because TOCA Social’s games are so fun and the food is so good, it doesn’t really matter whether you drink or not.

Why did TOCA choose The O2 for its debut opening?

We chose The O2 because of its status as the world’s most popular music, entertainment and leisure venue. This destination provides the perfect platform first because of its great location at North Greenwich and ultimately we wanted to ensure we are highly visible to all visitors.  For example, the venue and location is within easy reach of the underground, Uber Boat by Thames Clippers, Emirates cable car plus extensive car and bus routes both in and outside of London. It is a destination that encourages a wide range of people to visit and one which fits with our key messaging as a brand. The O2 is a destination that people can spend all day at and TOCA Social complements this experience in a new and unique way.

Now that operations are underway, what has the response been like from the all-important general public?

The reaction to TOCA Social has been incredible, and having only been open a month, we have had some great feedback on the venue. Due to the uniqueness of our site, it is something that people have been excited about and willing to get involved with. Guests can enjoy their own personal booth with each booth providing space for up to 12 people to ‘play, dine and score’, whilst also having the option to take part in an array of football-based games enabled by innovative ball delivery and AI enhanced tracking technology.

TOCA has a food and drink element – what was the decision making process behind that and how did you decide what should be on the menu?

Our Creative Director for Food and Beverage has trained at one of the world’s best Michelin starred restaurants and has created a menu of high-quality food that everyone can enjoy, focusing on Modern Americana cuisine. Although TOCA Social is based around the element of football, we still wanted to create an environment that people can enjoy regardless of their love of the sport and serving up great food and drink is something that will continue to entice people.

Finally: Are there plans to expand the TOCA Social brand with more sites?

We will be announcing further sites in the coming months both here and in the US. We have created a design that we feel represents our brand and ethos well, and are looking forward to offering the experience to more people across the country and beyond.. The O2 is the model location that we strive to replicate, and we are very much looking forward to TOCA Social’s next steps.

This was first published in Retail Destination Fortnightly. Click here to subscribe.

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