(Above: Chuck in happier times)
Interesting news among locations lately – while chains like Dave & Busters and Round 1 USA expand, a more famous arcade chain looks to be in some trouble. Chuck E Cheeses is the largest chain of arcade/FEC entertainment in the world, sporting nearly 600 locations, with a near total majority most of those being found in the United States. I’ve seen more advertisements from them than anyone else and while they have been trying to re-target their brand to consumers, such as with a mascot redesign and neat smartphone AR app, it hasn’t been enough to turn things around as a whole. According to report via The AP, CEC has agreed to a buyout deal for almost $1 billion to Apollo Global Management, which bought up Hostess Inc. last year when that company went under.
So what does this all mean? In part it’s too early to tell and some things might still happen to change the situation. The principal factor is that CEC cannot continue doing the same thing that they have been doing. It certainly does not mean that all 580+ locations are going to close. As we saw with the buyer in the Hostess situation, Twinkies were saved from total doom and they are back on the shelves again; also recall that when the Gameworks chain ran into trouble they also came out of it with some locations just going independent.
I haven’t been to a CEC in a while, last time was about two years ago when I took my kids there to see how it had changed since I had last visited it (which was once back in the late 80s or early 90s, I have very vague memories of that visit). One thing that should be noted in any discussion about the chain is that despite the name, the locations are not exactly carbon copies of each other with the same game selection, floor layout, employees, managers, etc. For my visit it was ok and the kids had fun but I find it difficult for ticket redemption games to hold my interest for very long. That particular CEC had a mix of 98% redemption, 2% video so there wasn’t a whole lot to keep non-redemption fans entertained for long. The food, while it didn’t make me sick wasn’t notable. In fact in a discussion I was having with someone on Facebook about this news they used the term “cardboard” to describe the pizza. That’s not a term you want to be said when talking about your food; again I have no idea if their food is the same across the board but I have not heard anyone praise CEC’s food, which is supposed to be one of the reasons they are in business. I would think that a primary goal should be to totally revamp their food aspect as some restaurant chains have done. Also it’s hard to gauge how negative PR such as constant parent fights have on a brand. I am not sure what locations have done to curb that problem, which is one you don’t really hear often from other arcade/family entertainment venues.
In your opinion, what should Chuck E Cheese do to turn things around?