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Chuck E. Cheese’s will look a lot different once it reopens

Temperature checks, prepackaged salads, fewer games and no strolling mascots are among some of the changes planned by the struggling eatertainment chain.
Photograph: Shutterstock

All of the more than 610 Chuck E. Cheese’s locations around the country remain closed, with no public timeline for reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic.

But when the struggling eatertainment chain once again opens its doors to families for pizza and arcade games, it will operate much differently than it did before COVID-19, according to reopening guidelines shared by the Irving, Texas-based chain earlier this month.

Among the operational changes:

  • Guest temperatures will be checked upon entering.
  • Masks encouraged for all guests.
  • Hands sanitized upon entry.
  • Kids will be checked in with a photo, rather than a hand stamp.
  • Prepackaged salads will be sold in lieu of the salad bar.
  • Birthday parties will only be held by private reservation, outside of normal business hours.
  • Multiplayer arcade games will be limited to one player.
  • Game prizes will be prepackaged, to limit time at the counter.
  • Arcade games will be spaced at least 6 feet apart, along with booths and other seating.
  • Stores will be sanitized every 30 minutes.

And the chain’s signature mouse mascot, Charles Entertainment Cheese, won’t be strolling around, posing for selfies with kids, any time soon, according to a recent YouTube statement from CEO David McKillips.

“Chuck E. Cheese himself will be resting until he gets ready to get back out on the dance floor,” McKillips said.

Regardless of state reopening guidelines, Chuck E. Cheese’s “will not reopen our door just because we can,” the chain said.

Chuck E. Cheese’s did not immediately respond to a Restaurant Business request for comment on reopening plans.

Chuck E. Cheese’s parent company CEC Entertainment, which also owns Peter Piper Pizza, has generated headlines in recent days for selling food via third-party delivery services under the Pasqually’s Pizza & Wings brand name. (Pasqually P. Pieplate is the name of the cartoon chef in the Chuck E. Cheese backstory. He is also the drummer in the Chuck E. Cheese animatronic band.)

A number of restaurant operators have recently spun off delivery-only brands, selling rebranded menu items made in their existing kitchens.

Chuck E. Cheese’s Pasqually’s Pizza features a thicker crust and more sauce than a traditional pie from the eatertainment chain, a company spokesperson told Food & Wine magazine, for a “more flavorful, more premium pizza experience.”

“While Pasqually’s Pizza & Wings recipes are currently only available for delivery, select items might be added to the Chuck E. Cheese menu in the future,” the spokesperson said.

But off-premise sales aren’t enough to keep the eatertainment chain afloat. CEC Entertainment recently hired a strategy consulting firm as an adviser after having its credit rating downgraded amid massive coronavirus-fueled sales losses. In April, the company established a “restructuring committee” to mull possible strategies going forward, including potential bankruptcy.

The company has more than $900 million in debt and reported a net loss of $29 million last year. It has since drawn down $105 million on its revolving credit facility.

“Moody’s believes CEC faces a slow recovery once operations are allowed to open because consumers will be reluctant to bring children or allow young adults to go to closed venues such as Chuck E. Cheese’s, and so the current capital structure is not sustainable over the long term,” the credit-rating firm said.

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