December 21, 2020

Chris Castille: Utilize Soft Opens to Assess Protocols

Chris Castille is the Chief Operating Officer of That’s Eatertainment Corporation, based in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Chris Castille on the importance of utilizing soft opens to assess protocols:

Opening a new entertainment center is complicated enough in normal times. During a pandemic? Now that’s a totally different animal. In October 2020, we began a soft open of our newest endeavor, “Nextlinks at The Revelry.” Similar to the unique iPad-driven putting games and fun lighting technology used at Indian Wells for their “Shots in the Night” program, this is 14 greens in a unique, 20,000 square foot facility that features a 45-foot-high canopy, open on both sides. So even before COVID-19 became part of our nation’s vernacular, the pieces for an open air environment were there. But to convince the public that all their health is paramount, we took multiple actions. Most important was the soft open. I cannot recommend it enough for any facility. Even after taking various measures, we realized that the only way to work out the kinks was to have a soft open.

Chris Castille on the business impact of utilizing soft opens to assess protocols:

We went through extensive consultation with all the local and state health officials and got their baseline set of protocols: everyone has to have a seat, wear a face covering when they aren’t eating or drinking, we must install sanitizing stations, and have a maximum capacity of 50 percent. But we wanted to go beyond that. We’ve installed Plexiglas barriers in the areas around where one green and the green next to you may not lend themselves to social distancing. We have an indoor sports bar and arcade in the building right next to the Nextlinks greens where we’ve installed Plexiglas between arcade games and features larger barriers between groups who rent couches in the sports bar. Speaking of bars, at the outdoor tiki bar, we gave our bartenders a unique banner to where when one group sits down, they literally roll out a six-foot long banner/sign with an arrow pointing to where the next group of people may sit. Through extensive planning, a soft-open, and adapting on the fly as friends and family come through and check out the space, we are fully confident this will work on a larger scale upon launch.

If you would like to email the author of this Best Practice directly, please email