From kid’s entertainment to a restaurant experience both children and adults alike can enjoy, take a look at the rebranding efforts Chuck E. Cheese’s is going through.
Many a friend’s birthday party was spent at the “Mouse House” when I was a kid. There was nothing better than an afternoon at Chuck E. Cheese’s playing games, running around in the indoor playground with your friends, eating pizza, and finishing off the day with an animatronic music show with prizes won from all those tickets.
But as an adult, the perception is that those games may seem noisy, the menu needs to have more than pepperoni pizza, and frankly, that animatronic mouse is not a big draw. That’s probably why kids want to come between 10 and 11 times a year, but really only visit three times, on average. Parents hold the veto power when it comes to a day at Chuck E. Cheese’s, and they use it more often than not.
“CEC Entertainment has always appealed to children. We have children’s love, but winning over their parents has always been the challenge,” shared Dean Satchwell, Vice President of Supply Chain. “If we can get a family into a store just one more time a year, think of the impact that has on the brand.”
But it’s more about the brand’s impact on guests than increasing foot traffic for higher revenue. In order to do that, CEC Entertainment has been hard at work turning its flagship kids’ entertainment venues into locations that are a little more adult-friendly.
“Chuck E. Cheese’s had gone decades without a menu update or a revamp,” said Greg Casale, Senior Director of Culinary Innovation for CEC Entertainment, Inc. “It had lost its spark. There was a gap between what kids wanted to have happen, and what the adults wanted to do. It was time.”
In order to make the Chuck E. Cheese’s experience more appetizing for parents, the menu was one of the first things up for rebranding. Casale, a renowned fine dining chef known for Gregory’s Grill and Gregory’s World Bistro in Arizona, as well as his time at Panera Bread and Peter Piper Pizza (a sister company to Chuck E. Cheese’s), knew exactly where to start.
Pizza is the staple food for Chuck E. Cheese’s and, like the brand, it hadn’t been updated in a while. Today, guests can enjoy pizzas with thin, crispy crusts from dough made fresh in store and a slew of new, tasty sauces and toppings, including whole milk mozzarella cheese. In fact, in a nationwide taste test, the majority of people (57 percent) preferred Chuck E. Cheese's Thin & Crispy pepperoni pizza over Pizza Hut's® Thin & Crispy pepperoni pizza. The thin crust also helps cut about a third of the calories from the pie, providing the growing millennial generation of parents with healthier options.
Casale also noticed right away that a lot of work needed to be done to improve CEC’s standard wing offerings. The former bone-in wings on the menu had a buffalo glaze already on the product, rendering dipping sauces pretty much obsolete. Now, the wings are plain, 100-percent white meat chicken from Tyson, and Casale can work on innovating delicious new dipping sauces. Although he hates picking favorites, right now he’s very proud of the wings.
On a strategic level, Satchwell and his supply chain team worked closely with Casale to increase the quality of food while balancing the need to get goods at an equal or lower cost. They have implemented programs that are yielding national efficiencies when it comes to purchasing and procurement.
“Quality is always the bar we measure ourselves against, so my job is to figure out how we increase quality in the most economical way,” Satchwell said. “When I started, there were a lot of store managers that were running to the grocery store to buy stuff in the middle of the day, or were choosing produce companies based on price, not quality.”
Food has obviously been a priority improvement for the brand—but many other parts of the business have seen marked improvement as well.
“There’s been a lot of change,” Satchwell shared. “CEC had been the same for many years. With a new headquarters building and new employees, the lines of communication are now more open, and there is more collaboration.”
CEC Entertainment has also partnered with EnTouch Controls, a leader in the energy management space, to complement their sustainability efforts. By leveraging actionable analytics to proactively drive efficiencies, EnTouch Controls and CEC Entertainment are demonstrating how a collaborative focus on asset management and energy intelligence can significantly reduce energy waste and reactive maintenance costs, support enterprise-wide sustainability initiatives, all while extending the life of capital equipment.
The two-year deployment of EnTouch 360™ has saved in excess of 28 million kWh (kilowatt hour) or the equivalent of eliminating 21 million pounds of burned coal.
“The CEC Entertainment team has successfully aligned their sustainability initiatives with a clear and defined energy management strategy by utilizing EnTouch 360, which translates into on-going benefits and bottom-line savings,” said Greg Fasullo, CEO of EnTouch Controls.
It was fascinating learning about Chef Casale’s process, and just how much of an impact Satchwell has been able to make in updating the brand, but perhaps the most rewarding moment of my chat with these men was their optimism for the future of continued improvement.
“If I could tell parents one thing about the new Chuck E. Cheese’s, it would be that the food is better, the dining experience is better,” Casale said. “The brand is taking food seriously again.”
“Kids are always going to have a great time with us,” said Satchwell, “but now the experience has improved for the parents. Our improvements are proven—sales and attendance has improved. And Chef’s right, the food is great. I’m proud to eat in our restaurants.”
For more than 39 years, CEC Entertainment has served as the nationally recognized leader in family dining and entertainment and the place Where A Kid Can Be A Kid®. As the award-winning, number-one, kid-friendly restaurant for millions of families across the world, the company and its franchisees operate a system of 597 Chuck E. Cheese's stores located in 47 states and 11 foreign countries or territories. CEC welcomed Peter Piper Pizza to its portfolio in October 2014. More than 15,000 employees are dedicated to ensuring every guest leaves happy!