Another restaurant chain embraces esports as a draw

Photograph: Shutterstock

The new video game phenomenon of esports has made another inroad into the restaurant business with the installation of terminals for simultaneous live play inside the GameWorks fun-and-food chain.

The eSport Lounges will enable 20 to 40 guests to play the same video game simultaneously, either casually or in tournaments offering prizes to the winners. GameWorks said it plans to hold tournaments at least once a month. Players can have food and beverages brought to their seats from The Works Kitchen, the restaurant component of GameWorks branches.

Esports is evolving into a major spectator sport, where an audience can watch contestants and see depictions of their game screens as they compete for purses sometimes running into millions of dollars. The activity has been increasing at the rate of 17% a year, and already constituted a $138 billion business by the end of 2018, according to research and consulting firm IDG Consulting.

The potential of landing players and onlookers has prompted other restaurant operators to embrace the emerging “sport” as a way of drawing young consumers’ attention. Buffalo Wild Wings, for instance, recently opened a new prototype that features a section called the MVP Room, which is wired to host esports contests and broadcast the competitions onto TVs throughout the restaurant. Included in the room is a six-tap self-service beer dispensing system.

Jersey Mike’s Subs sponsored the North American League of Legends Championship Series esports tournament this past summer. “We’re looking at the customer of tomorrow,” CMO Rich Hope told Restaurant Business when the 1,600-unit chain announced its backing of the esports league. “We’re looking at customers who are 13 instead of 27. They’re hard to reach with traditional media. This is an opportunity to reach them in an environment they’re in.”

Esports are among the new forms of in-restaurant entertainment that various chains are trying to sweeten their appeal. Buffalo Wild Wings is also experimenting with sports gambling, though in a mild form that wins participants free food rather than a cash payout. Dave & Buster’s added virtual reality games to its arcades this summer.

Three GameWorks branches have already added the eSports Lounges. The operation says it intends to outfit its other four units with the facilities by March 20.

“The expansion of our eSports Lounges makes GameWorks the preferred destination for esports gamers and enthusiasts alike,” CEO Philip Kaplan said in a statement. 

The Works Kitchen features appetizers, sandwiches, burgers, salads and desserts. 

The company recently opened a restaurant-gaming hybrid that features board games instead of video types. The lone Tabletop Tap House is in San Francisco. 

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