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Dave & Buster’s sees promise in virtual reality games, pared-down menu

After lackluster sales, the eatertainment chain posted 2.9% comps growth for its Q4.
Photograph: Shutterstock

A virtual-reality gaming platform coupled with a simplified, upgraded menu appears to be giving Dave & Buster’s the boost the eatertainment chain has been searching for.

After ending 2018 on a weak note, the Dallas-based brand reported same-store sales growth of 2.9% for the quarter ended Feb. 3. Revenue climbed 8.8%, to $331.8 million, during the period.

The chain, feeling the heat of competition from emerging entertainment concepts such as Punch Bowl Social, has so far added three proprietary virtual reality titles. The company will roll out a fourth immersive game, based on the “Men in Black” movie series, in June.

“Based on the strength of our VR offering in early 2019, we implemented a price increase on our VR games in just over half of our stores,” CEO Brian Jenkins said Tuesday during a call with analysts.

In the past year, Dave & Buster’s has replaced or reformulated more than three-quarters of its menu. The changes included reducing the size of the February menu by 15%, on top of a 20% minimization made a year ago.

But there’s one company initiative that doesn’t appear to be grabbing consumers—at least initially.

Late last year, Dave & Buster’s began testing a limited-service taco concept inside a Dallas unit. The taco bar, designed to look like a food truck, provides an option for customers looking for a quick bite in between video games.

“Initial demand has not been as strong as we anticipated,” Jenkins told analysts. “We are working to improve in-store awareness and utilization and remain optimistic about this opportunity.”

Chain executives predicted same-store sales to remain flat or grow by up to 1.5% for 2019, with plans to open 15 or 16 new stores.

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