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Dave & Buster’s wants your lunch business

The food-and-games chain said it’s looking for ways to maximize the midday daypart. But that will likely entail a rethinking of its food-and-beverage operations.
Dave & Buster's
Photograph: Shutterstock

Dave & Buster’s wants to see you at lunchtime.

The food-and-games chain, which is typically more busy on evenings and weekends, said there’s no reason customers can’t stop in midday for some food and quick fun. It’s looking at ways to maximize that daypart.

“Every restaurant in town is busy at lunch,” Interim CEO Kevin Sheehan said during a presentation at the ICR Conference. “Here’s an opportunity where you can have lunch and play. It’s certainly better than looking at each other’s ugly mugs.

“When you look at days of the week and the hours of the day, the opportunities are enormous at lunch.”

But bringing in lunch business will require sorting out Dave & Buster’s food-and-beverage operations, which Sheehan admitted was “a work in progress.”

About 70% of sales at the 143-unit chain come from the gaming side. Often, customers come in just to play video games. And often, those customers have grabbed a slice of pizza or a burger before doing so, he said.

“We’re missing that opportunity,” Sheehan said.

But there’s no quick way to order food at Dave & Buster’s, he said. And customers sometimes get frustrated, taking time out of their game play, to wait to order, receive food and pay.

“We’ve made it hard,” he said. “Why can’t we figure out how to make that very seamless for them?”

He said Dave & Buster’s is “working toward” a system in which customers could order from their phones and be alerted when a table and food is ready for them to take a pause from playing.

“There is a recipe for a huge success there and it changes everything,” he said.

He said Dave & Buster’s is also looking for ways to boost the value proposition of its special events business, currently about 10% of its overall sales.

The pandemic, of course, has been especially difficult on an eatertainment concept like Dave & Buster’s.

Most recently, the chain has had to limit store hours because of staffing shortages due to the latest COVID surge.

Last month, Dave & Buster’s said the delta variant, coupled with local mask and vaccine mandates, was putting a damper on its sales. It reported same-store sales up 1.1% for the third quarter compared to 2019 levels.

The chain is embarking on a large-scale remodeling project this year to revitalize some of its aging locations.

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