Expect the food-and-games chain come be much more focused on tech and at-home experiences as it navigates the most complicated period in that history, CEC Entertainment’s CEO says. By pagan Lalley top top Oct. 05, 2020

A generation ago, lining E. Cheese to be the place with the round pit and the animatronic band and the lukewarm pizza spend by youngsters so they might keep playing games.

Today, the ball pit is gone and also Chuck E. Cheese self is sidelined native walking the floor because of COVID. Also the this firm pizza recipe has been reimagined to reach a wider audience.

The pandemic has sped up the speed of change for the eatertainment brand and its parent agency CEC Entertainment, i beg your pardon in June came to be the very first major chain to declare bankruptcy between the coronavirus crisis, the this firm CEO David McKillips claimed in an interview through Restaurant Business Monday.

As the Irving, Texas-based company, which likewise operates Peter Piper Pizza and also delivery-only Pasqually’s Pizza, navigates bankruptcy proceedings, that is re-envisioning the future of its 43-year-old food-and-games ide Chuck E. Cheese.

“Everything we’re doing, we desire to have actually in-store, in ~ home and online,” McKillips said.

Case in point: Parties.

Birthday parties have historically comprised 15% of chuck E. Cheese’s revenue, McKillips said. As result of capacity restrictions, the number of birthday parties that deserve to be held at each place per work is significantly reduced.

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“We are significantly down in our date of birth parties right now, in the comp basis,” the said. “We’ve pivoted to distribution birthdays at home.”

In addition to at-home birthday packages through games and online components, the chain has added half-birthday party choices and is in the midst of promoting Halloween party packages that function a partnership through kiddie entertainment mainstay Kidz Bop.

At-home offerings include goodie bags, tickets because that future game play, branded tableware and also photo backdrops.

McKillips decreased to provide details sales metrics but said the off-premise parties are “very good” for chuck E. Cheese.

“We’re see a most repeat orders,” the said.

Long-term, CEC to chat is mulling means to capitalize on chuck E. Cheese and his personality friends in other socially distanced ways, perhaps pursuing merchandising deals or also animated features, McKillips said.

“He’s among the preeminent intellectual properties in the human being that hasn’t had the chance yet for entertainment licensing and merchandising programs,” he said. “It’s not in the near future; the in the long-range plan. I acquire so excited thinking around it.”

Given the realities that the pandemic, it’s little wonder why lining E. Cheese is continuing to seek off-premise business channels. The brand currently has 336 locations open for dine-in, carryout and also game play, that said. Around 450 units full are operating as carryout and also delivery-only stores, he said, with all of those offering food selection items from CEC Entertainment’s online Pasqually’s Pizza concept.

Chuck E. Cheese has permanently closeup of the door 47 stores during the pandemic, he said.

“We’re not in the company of close up door locations, so we’re actively working v our landlords and leaseholders to save our investment portfolio of shop open,” he said.

Pre-pandemic, lining E. Cheese focused almost entirely ~ above its on-premise business. But it has quickly shifted gears, McKillips said.

“This firm was not collection up because that an off-premise strategy,” he said. “We quickly pivoted. Us signed agreements v all the major delivery service providers to make certain we have actually a visibility there. We launched a value meal for carryout.”

In-store, paper tickets have been changed by e-tickets systemwide to minimize touch points because that consumers. More technology is intended to it is in introduced, too.

“Eventually, you’ll have the ability to order directly from your phone, using QR codes,” he said.

McKillips join the struggling company just seven months ago and has actually visited more than 200 stores in current months, talking around the technological changes and the thing 11 proceedings.

“Communication continues to be the absolute most important thing us do,” he said. “It’s been fairly a run.”

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