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How Main Event is getting back into food and games amid the pandemic

The eatertainment chain has reopened 42 of its 44 units but business is different than usual thanks to a focus group of moms.
Main Event
Photo courtesy of Main Event Entertainment

Food-and-games chain Main Event made sure to consult a demographic extremely important to its business before reopening units during the pandemic:


“How do we ensure that the most-loyal people who come to Main Event feel very safe?” Chief Brand Officer Sarah Beddoe said. “We reached out to moms to co-build a program they’d feel comfortable with. We’re family-first. I’m a mom. Most people that work here have children, too.”

Among the key elements of Plano, Texas-based Main Event’s “Play Smart, Play Safe” reopening program:

  • Limited capacity
  • Social distancing markers
  • Sanitation stations
  • Cleaning teams
  • Contactless payment options
  • Distanced video games, bowling and laser tag

Main Event, which has so far reopened 42 of its 44 locations, expanded its gaming floor into what was once the birthday party area to allow for greater distance between games, Beddoe said.

The chain also developed a bowling “valet” program, in which there is no trying on of bowling balls or shoes and all equipment is sanitized and issued directly to bowlers.

“So you can witness the process from start to finish,” she said.

For laser tag, the chain is only allowing eight players at a time (down from 40 previously) and they must remain in their own zones.

The chain relied on its email list to get targeted feedback from parents about the safety protocols.

“It’s a group of people who are very responsive,” Beddoe said. “We reached out to the core group. We got an enormous amount of feedback in a very short amount of time.”

Apparently, the safety efforts are reassuring to customers—at least according to Main Event’s recent sales numbers. The eatertainment chain has seen continual week-over-week sales growth since reopening began in May. Sales are currently at 80% to 85% of pre-COVID levels, she said. Some centers are seeing year-over-year positive growth, she said.

“There are a set of consumers who are very excited to get out,” Beddoe said. “They’re looking for ways to keep their family safe. We are able to welcome them back … It’s just about recovering our revenue.”

For those who may not be so ready to go inside, Main Event has recently partnered with third-party delivery providers for off-premise options.

The pandemic’s effects have been especially brutal for eatertainment concepts.

Chuck E. Cheese parent CEC Entertainment declared bankruptcy in June, saying it faced more than 50 lawsuits from landlords over missed rent payments. Struggling food-and-games operator Dave & Buster’s received a $100 million investment from Jeffries in May to stay afloat after being forced to temporarily shutter all of its units. The 137-unit company said same-store sales fell 58.6% during Q1.

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