The rise and fall of Chuck E. Cheese, as the iconic chain struggles amid the coronavirus pandemic

chuck e cheesechuck e cheese

Chuck E. Cheese is 43 years old.

Getty Images


Chuck E. Cheese has been through a lot over the last 43 years. 

The mascot — full name Charles Entertainment Cheese — was originally created by Atari cofounder Nolan Bushnell, to serve as the cigar-chewing mascot at Pizza Time Theatre in the 1970s. Since then, the chain that took the mascot’s name has been restructured and sold numerous times in attempts to keep up with the trends. 

Another restructuring may be on the way for the mouse mascot (formerly portrayed as a rat). Business Insider’s Casey Sullivan and Alex Morrell reported this week that parent company CEC Entertainment is struggling under a heavy debt load. Lenders are organizing and tapping restructuring lawyers, according to people familiar with the situation. 

Change is nothing new for Chuck E. Cheese. Read on to see how the chain evolved, as Chuck E. Cheese transformed from an animatronic rat from New Jersey to a rock star mouse performing live shows on YouTube. 

Atari cofounder Nolan Bushnell founded Pizza Time Theatre in 1977.

Nolan Bushnell (right) and Steve Wozniak

Silicon Valley technology pioneers Nolan Bushnell (right) and Steve Wozniak

Getty Images/Bettmann


Source: Fast Company

The star of the restaurant was Chuck E. Cheese, a cigar-smoking rat with a Jersey accent.

Nolan Bushnell in one of his Pizza Time Theater Restaurants.

Nolan Bushnell in one of his Pizza Time Theater Restaurants.

Ted Thai/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Image


Source: Fast Company

“I always felt that was something that was lacking in restaurants,” Bushnell told Fast Company. “I wanted to add a dimension of fun to the act of having a meal.”

Giant novelty robot The King posing with Nolan Bushnell, founder/owner of Pizza Time Theater

Giant novelty robot The King posing with Nolan Bushnell, founder/owner of Pizza Time Theater

Photo by Ted Thai/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images


Source: Fast Company

Originally, Chuck E. Cheese made abrasive and sometimes sexual jokes, aimed at adult customers. But, the chain transitioned to more kid-friendly approach relatively quickly in its early years.

Chuck E. Cheese; rodent restaurateur.

Adam Roberts; the man inside; dresses up as Chuck E. Cheese; rodent restaurateur. And he loves his job. The little ones kiss my nose and say: ‘I love you Chuckee.’ They pass me notes and drawings; he says.

John Mahler/Toronto Star via Getty Images


In the ’80s, the pizza chain went public, followed by various restructuring efforts as sales slumped. By 1992, all locations of the pizza chain that had grown out of the Pizza Time Theatre concept were rebranded as Chuck E. Cheese’s.

Chuck E. Cheese

Chuck E. Cheese at the Annual Hollywood Christmas Parade in 2003.

Mark Sullivan/WireImage


Source: Nation’s Restaurant News

Chuck E. Cheese’s continued to evolve and grow, reaching 300 locations in 2000.

Ed Porter, Area Director for Chuck E. Cheese, chats with a family having a birthday party.

Ed Porter, Area Director for Chuck E. Cheese, chats with a family having a birthday party.

Bryan Chan/Getty Images


Source: Show Biz Pizza

The chain was famous for its arcade games, prize tokens, and pizza, as well as performances by an animatronic Chuck E. Cheese and crew.

Chuck E. Cheese's in Springfield, Mo., as seen Sunday, January 6, 2008.

Chuck E. Cheese’s in Springfield, Mo., as seen Sunday, January 6, 2008.

Mark Schiefelbein/Getty Images


According to the company, the mouse’s full name is Charles Entertainment Cheese, an orphan who celebrates others’ birthdays to make up for his own sad childhood.

Pasqually The Chef, Chuck E. Cheese, and Helen Henny attend the 84th Annual Hollywood Christmas Parade on November 29, 2015 in Hollywood, California.

Pasqually The Chef, Chuck E. Cheese, and Helen Henny attend the 84th Annual Hollywood Christmas Parade on November 29, 2015 in Hollywood, California.

Photo by Phillip Faraone/FilmMagic)


Source: Insider

The makeover failed to bring in customers, and Chuck E. Cheese Entertainment was acquired by private-equity firm Apollo Global Management in 2014 for nearly $1 billion.

chuck e cheese



YouTube


Source: The Wall Street Journal 

The last few years have seen plenty of change at Chuck E. Cheese. The chain retired its tokens in 2016 and the animatronics in 2017. The chain also changed its name slightly, dropping the possessive to become Chuck E. Cheese in 2017.

CEC Entertainment CEO Tom Leverton,

CEC Entertainment CEO Tom Leverton, right, speaks to attendees with Chuck E. Cheese during the Chuck E. Cheese Grand Reopening on Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017, in San Antonio.

Darren Abate/AP Images for Chuck E. Cheese’s


Source: Business Insider

Since 2017, the chain has been working to revamp locations with new designs, dynamic pricing, and better birthday packages.

Chuck E. Cheese's debuts its fresh new look on Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017, in San Antonio. (Darren Abate/AP Images for Chuck E. Cheese's)

Chuck E. Cheese’s debuts its fresh new look on Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017, in San Antonio.

Darren Abate/AP Images for Chuck E. Cheese’s


The coronavirus pandemic hit the chain hard, with sales sinking 21% in the first quarter. Chuck E. Cheese has attempted to keep fans engaged with pizza delivery and “live performances” from the mascot.

chuck e cheese



Chuck E. Cheese/YouTube


Business Insider’s Casey Sullivan and Alex Morrell reported this week that the chain has already cut hours and staffing, furloughed most of its hourly employees and some 65% of support-center staff, and deferred rental payments on its company-operated venues.

More:

Features
Retail
Chuck E. Cheese

Read More

(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)
Join Our Newsletter.
We'll send you the best news and informed analysis on what matters the most to you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll Up Scroll Up
en_USEnglish
en_USEnglish