Chuck E. Cheese is the place you wanted to go as a kid to play games and win tickets to exchange for prizes. At some point during the visit, your mom would force you to sit down for 10 minutes to eat a couple slices of average pizza. From the iconic animatronics, pizza, playground, and the long history of kids having fun in just under one roof, Chuck E. Cheese had it all for a kid growing up in the 80s and 90s.
But the pizza business is a tough industry. Over the last decade, Chuck E. Cheese struggled to keep up with changing consumer preferences and in 2020 the company announced 45 locations would close forever. Read on below to know if there’s still hope for the beloved Chuck E. and the gang to make a comeback post chapter 11 bankruptcy. Do you think the updated promotion strategy will turnaround the financial performance of this brand?
How Many Chuck E. Cheese Locations are Closed?
In June 2020, CEC Entertainment, owners of Chuck E. Cheese and Peter Piper Pizza, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy due to the financial difficulties that the business faced during the COVID 19 pandemic. Along with the news of the filing, they also announced that they would be closing 45 Chuck E. Cheese and Peter Piper Pizza locations in the United States.
Here are the locations that closed down permanently as part of this announcement:
- Diamond Bar, CA
- El Monte, CA
- Heights, CA
- Long Beach, CA
- San Bernardino, CA
- Ft. Collins, CO
- Grand Junction, CO
- Green Acres, FL
- Miami Gardens, FL
- Miami, FL
- North Lauderdale, FL
- Columbus-Macsway, OH
- Lima, OH
- Mansfield, OH
- Chicago-Matteson, IL
- Vernon Hills, IL
- Danvers, MA
- Leominster, MA
- Natick, MA
- Springfield, MA
- Las Vegas McCarran, NV
- Las Vegas-Sahara, NV
- New Hartford, NY
- Harlem, NY
- OKC-Del City, OK
- OKC-Westgate, OK
- Moore, OK
- Johnstown, PA
- Lancaster, PA
Did Chuck E. Cheese File for Bankruptcy?
Yes. Chuck E. Cheese officially filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in June 2020. Here’s what CEC’s Chief Executive Officer David McKillips had to say about the filing:
“The Chapter 11 process will allow us to strengthen our financial structure as we recover from what has undoubtedly been the most challenging event in our Company’s history and get back to the business of delivering memories, entertainment, and pizzas for another 40 years and beyond.” He also added, “I am incredibly proud of what the CEC team has achieved over the past year as we launched the All You Can Play value gaming platform, expanded our remodel program and found new ways to engage with families while our venues were closed. I’m confident in the strength of our team and our world-class brands and look forward to more fully implementing our strategic plan as we put these financial challenges behind us.”
A cheese pizza from Chuck E. Cheese.
Fortunately, on December 30, 2020, CEC Entertainment released news that they were able to emerge from the bankruptcy. According to reports, the company was able to complete their financial restructure with $705 million of debt obligations paid off.
What are some of the reasons Chuck E. Cheese Struggled Financially?
Prior to the filing of the Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Chuck E. Cheese had struggled financially for years. The company had also racked up a significant amount of debt. After their restructuring process, they managed to reduce this debt by $705 million.
But how did the company accumulate so much debt in the first place? A few reasons are cited like changing consumer preferences. But there were also strategic efforts that never panned out. For example in 2017 the company was investing in updating their food, games, and entire atmosphere inside restaurants going for a “fresher and cleaner” look. While the strategic plans made a lot of sense, the updates never resulted in improved financial performance for many units.
One example of a menu update was a virtual kitchen concept called Pasqually’s Pizza & Wings. The goal of Pasqually’s Pizza & Wings was to increase pick-up and delivery sales that had lagged behind other competitors for year. But critics that claimed the food was not significantly different than Chuck E. Cheese menu items.
Another struggle to note was that the main attractions at Chuck E. Cheese were the animatronics and video games becoming obsolete. Some locations were in run-down areas that failed to change with the times. Some units rested on their nostalgia and laurels from back in the 1990s to keep the business going forever.
As for the filing of bankruptcy, Chuck E. Cheese cited it was a debt issue and it was also due to the effects of the COVID 19 pandemic where the lockdowns had prohibited people from dining in hence affecting their sales. While the health crisis certainly played a role in these financial challenges, the writing had been on the wall for this company for years.
Will Chuck E. Cheese Make a Comeback?
It’s still unclear if this chain will return to its former glory post bankruptcy. Chuck E. Cheese is indeed attempting a comeback as their bankruptcy issues have somewhat been solved.
One of their strategy to bring back customers is upgrading all their tech. For instance, they use an e-ticket platform now than physical paper tickets. Reusable cards are also being used so that players can accumulate digital tickets instead. They’ve also improved safety measures such as a touchless method in handling tickets.
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Since they’re also a party destination, they made sure to have themed events such as their Summer of Fun and also featured a Summer Fun Pass for customers to enjoy weekly games, food, and e-tickets at a discounted price. Remodeling their stores to look fresh and new was also part of their comeback plan. Chuck E. Cheese hopes to use this opportunity to reemerge as an exciting destination for kids of all ages.
As for adding new locations, Chuck E. Cheese is definitely doing that as well. They’re opening new locations in the Caribbean, Europe, Latin America, Asia, and Middle East Markets. You can check out the update menu prices for Chuck E. Cheese here.
Follow Chuck E. Cheese on social media.
What is Chuck E. Cheese Like Right Now?
Depending on there you live, you might have an updated state of the art Chuck E. Cheese or an outdated one. For example in a recent video The Degenerate Collector visited a Chuck E. Cheese location in Goldsboro, NC. The restaurant had a single Chuck E. Cheese animatronic greeting the customers and did not appear to be completely remodeled at the time of the visit.
Old video arcade games were still around but there were no longer tokens being given or physical tickets being handed out. Instead, you get an All You Can Play card where the tickets are digitized. Live shows were replaced with large TV screens according to the video.
Would you visit the nearest Chuck E. Cheese near you in an effort to capture some of that childhood nostalgia? I for one hope that Chuck E. Cheese’s new marketing strategy can capture the attention of the younger generation so the brand will continue living on for generations to come.
I certainly still share some of these warm fuzzy feelings about the brand from my own childhood growing up in the 90s and hope to share the experience with my own kids at some point. Although I am a bit disappointed that I may never be able to stuff my pockets full of printed game tickets again.