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Virtual reality is no escape for Dave & Buster’s

Photograph: Shutterstock

Rampaging dinosaurs failed to chase away Dave & Buster’s traffic problems during the second quarter ended Aug. 5, with same-store sales slipping 2.4% on a 2.6% decline in walk-in business.

The quarter brought the introduction of the restaurant-arcade chain’s first virtual reality (VR) attraction, a game based on the latest "Jurassic Park" movie, the big-budget summer flick “Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom.”

Management has cited VR games as a key part of the chain’s strategy for snapping a traffic and sales downturn. The chain intends to build a library of VR attractions as a point of differentiation and a way of drawing more visits from regular customers.  A second VR option is slated to be introduced later this year.

Customers pay to play the games, along with the other attractions in the arcade portion of the big-box entertainment centers.

CEO Brian Jenkins, who recently assumed his post from longtime leader Steve King, called the midquarter addition of “Jurassic World VR Expedition” “the biggest game launch in our history.”

Nevertheless, Dave & Buster’s arcade revenues for the quarter slipped 1.2% on a same-store basis. Jenkins declined to say how sales had trended after the "Jurassic Park" attraction was added, but commented to financial analysts, “Guest response has been strong and bodes well for future game releases on this platform.”

Same-store food and beverage revenues fell 4.1%. Jenkins noted that Dave & Buster’s has just introduced a menu that fits the chain’s objective of offering simpler-to-prepare and more accessible fare. The chain is also looking to upgrade the caliber of its foods and beverages. New items include an Impossible-brand nonmeat burger, upgraded nachos and Kobe beef meatballs.

Jenkins also provided further details during the quarterly conference call with financial analysts about Dave & Buster’s previously announced plans to open a fast-casual-style food option within its cavernous restaurant-arcades (nine of the chain’s planned units will encompass 40,000 square feet.)

The fast-casual station, called TNT Tacos, will feature street tacos. Jenkins likened it in style and function to a food truck. Executives have said in the past that a quick-service option will help game sales by enabling customers to get their food and drinks more quickly and return to the arcade areas.

Toward the same end, Dave & Buster’s will try in-restaurant kiosks, said Jenkins. Guests will be able to order their food, pick it up from a station, and then get back to game playing.

Other initiatives are focused on improving service and guest satisfaction levels. Jenkins explained that “a large number of stores” now feature “brand ambassadors” who greet customers as they enter units and help in guiding their dining or gaming experiences.

Dave & Buster’s operates 117 restaurant-arcades in North America. It expects to open 11 units this year.

For the second quarter, the chain reported an increase in total revenues of 11.4% on a comparable basis, to $319.2 million. Net income increased 11.2%, to $33.8 million.

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