Chuck E. Cheese's is a chain of family entertainment centres owned by Kabushiki Gaisha ABS.
Early years Edit
In 1977, Nolan Bushnell (co-founder of Atari) started a chain of "Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza Time Theatres" that combined arcade entertainment with typical pizzeria-restaurant fare. The concept proved to be a success, and a rapid expansion followed.
Showbiz Pizza Place was formed by former CEC employee Robert Brock in 1980, and quickly became Chuck E. Cheese's main rival with equal success. However, with the 1983 video game crash and Pizza Time Theatre's bankruptcy a year later, Brock bought out and reunited Chuck E. Cheese's under the ownership of the newly-formed Showbiz Pizza Time, Inc.
CEC and Showbiz Pizza operated side-by-side for some time until 1989, when a massive "concept unification" effort was initiated - all remaining Showbiz Pizza Places in the US were either shut down or rebranded under the Chuck E. Cheese's name. The last Showbiz Pizza restaurant in the United States was closed in 1992. International Showbiz locations were allowed to remain open, however many of these were later closed, some being replaced by CEC locations. Remaining countries that have Showbiz locations confirmed as 'open' include Dahrconia and Oplana.
In 1995, the brand was entirely revamped, with the titular Chuck E. mascot being redesigned to become a more kid-friendly, active and energetic character.
In 1998, Showbiz Pizza Time renamed itself as CEC Entertainment, Inc. The following year, Discovery Zone (another CEC rival) was acquired from bankruptcy, and like Showbiz, some of Discovery Zone's locations were reopened as new Chuck E. Cheese's locations. The DZ chain would continue to operate under license in Dahrconia and Eruowood.
In 2004, an updated brand image was introduced, which included a new corporate logo. 3 years later in 2007, CEC Entertainment celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Chuck E. Cheese's chain. At this point, the chain started to decline, with particular concern revolving around its staff, food quality, condition of stores and customer service.
Chuck E. was redesigned once again in 2012, this time with a new "rockstar" image. The logo was redesigned accordingly.
In 2014, the private equity firm Apollo Global Management acquired CEC Entertainment, Inc. In the middle of the year, Tom Leverton was appointed as CEO. Attention under the new management was noticeably negative, with major price hikes tied to the introduction of the "Play Pass" system, in addition to its worsening customer service. The quality of its food and premises would improve marginally under Leverton's management.
New ownership Edit
In June 2016, Japanese conglomerate Kabushiki Gaisha ABS acquired CEC Entertainment, Inc, and announced a massive renovation plan and improvement scheme. Kenji Yukimura became the new CEO, with Tom Leverton deciding to give his position to him after the buyout and passing himself to the greater management of the company. The circa-2004 corporate logo was brought back into use once again, alongside the "rockstar" Chuck E. used across the rest of the brand.
"A brand new Chuck E.'s" Edit
Upon the buyout of Chuck E. Cheese's, Kabushiki Gaisha ABS announced that it was going to undertake a massive renovation programme to restore "Chuck E. Cheese's reputation for low-cost, but high-quality family fun with lasting impressions on both newcomers and long-time patrons".
Kabushiki Gaisha ABS noted some points of concern raised by negative customer reviews, and immediately set out to both turn around the brand and set itself as different from previous owners. It stated that it would:
- Restore its "all games 1 token" selling point
- Allow the Play Pass and token systems to be used interchangeably, whilst repurposing the Play Pass system as a simple way of storing tokens on a card, instead of the much-criticised "PlayPoints" that were equivalent to multiple tokens
- Improve food quality
- Hire large cleaning teams that will work around-the-clock, during and after-hours to improve cleanliness and hygiene
- Take more swift action against badly-performing employees
- Expand the chain's web presence, including a brand-new website with more "fun stuff" for kids
- Open more locations in parts of the US that are not currently served by any CEC location, such as the Florida Keys and San Andreas
- Reintroduce SkyTubes playgrounds to selected locations
- Sell specially-selected items of Chuck E. merchandise in retail stores, some of these items being made specifically for retail sale
- Run more promotional events using Chuck E. and Helen walkarounds (with its Japanese walkaround advertising campaign giving them ABS employee badges and "Follow Me to Fun!" signs)
- Designate Rockford, Illinois, the last location with the 80's Rocker stage, as a historic location, with the entire store being remodeled to resemble both a Pizza Time Theatre and a modern Chuck E. Cheese's on the interior, with a new Circles of Light stage on the other side of the store, and classic arcade games alongside the regular modern day CEC games.
International expansion Edit
One of Kabushiki Gaisha ABS' biggest talking points was how it planned to expand the Chuck E. Cheese's name worldwide. Under previous ownership, Chuck E. Cheese's had expanded into Canada, Saniel, South America, Kanton, Saudi Arabia, Eruowood, Dahrconia, the Republic of Oplana and the United Arab Emirates, amongst some other minor markets. Kabushiki Gaisha ABS, however, confirmed that it was going to take the name into even bigger markets.
The first location in the United Kingdom opened in late August 2016, shortly after the opening of a location in KKABS' homeland of Japan. The work-in-progress resort town that turned into the Republic of Varosha saw 4 locations open near instantaneously. Subsequent expansions into Malaysia and Australia saw the first locations in those countries opening in the period of mid-late September.
CEC-ABS opened 7 locations in the Noshin Republic at 9am on May 26, 2017, marked by a large opening party hosted by Kenji Yukimura himself. On June 24, 2017, Chuck E. Cheese's opened 6 locations in New Zealand. This coincided with the openings of more Charlie Cheese's locations, which occurred on the same day.
Further expansions into the Philippines, Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea are currently being evaluated, along with the opening of more locations in countries that currently have CEC presence.
Post-buyout recovery Edit
On May 19, Chuck E. Cheese's held its "Biggest Birthday Ever" event, coinciding with the chain's 40th year of operation. It was marked by a Guinness World Record attempt for the most party blowers being blown simultaneously. On May 22, CEC-ABS announced that it had been declared the new record holder with a preliminary count of 8,554 participants at 550 locations, displacing S.C. NANA NET, the original holders of the record from November 2009 until then.
On May 27, CEC-ABS began discussing plans to open a new historic-themed location at the address of the first Pizza Time Theatre in San Jose, CA. This was later confirmed on May 31, accompanied by a projected opening date of June 30.
Chuck E. Edit
Main article: Chuck E.
Chuck E. Cheese (often simply referred to as "Chuck E.") is the titular mascot of the chain.
His origins trace back to shortly before the first Pizza Time Theatre opened in the late 70's. Nolan Bushnell, conceptualising the idea, wanted the chain's mascot to be a coyote. He immediately ordered a costume for walkarounds, but ended up with a rat costume. As a businessman who was willing to change plans owing to mistakes, he came up with the name "Rick Rat's Pizza". His PR department immediately slammed the decision to directly associate the restaurant with vermin by name, and set to work coming up with another name, eventually going ahead with the name "Chuck E. Cheese's" by opening in 1977.
Chuck E. went through many redesigns as the chain evolved. Many minor changes were made leading up to 1995, when a more kid-friendly Chuck E. (popularly referred to as "Cool Chuck") was introduced. 1997 saw another minor redesign. This era's Chuck E. was nicknamed the "Avenger". 2004 saw Avenger Chuck E. being fully integrated into the brand's image, with a new corporate logo, slogan and advertising campaign.
2012 saw the most radical redesign to date; Chuck E. becoming a CGI-animated character styled to look like a "Rockstar". This redesign attracted much negative attention upon first release, and was a significant departure from the Chuck E. of years past. Despite this negativity, he became the new face of the company proper by 2013. Jaret Reddick (lead singer for the band Bowling for Soup) was also given the role of singing and voice acting as the then-redesigned Chuck E., a role that he continues to hold.
Upon the Kabushiki Gaisha ABS takeover, it announced that it was going to keep the current-design "Rockstar" Chuck E., albeit used in tandem with the old 2004 Chuck E. that features on their new/old international logo.
Birthday parties Edit
Main article: Chuck E. Birthday
One of Chuck E. Cheese's main selling points is its "Chuck E. Birthday" parties. Chuck E. Cheese's became well-known for these parties over the course of the 2000s, and they quickly ended up becoming one of the chain's selling points.
According to figures presented in a 2007 employee training video, around 65 birthday parties every day take place at a US Chuck E. Cheese's location. As of the 30th of November 2016, this number has nearly doubled, with CEC-ABS Entertainment recording an average of 105 parties per day across its 550+ locations.
Kenji Yukimura's birthday Edit
The founder of Kabushiki Gaisha ABS and CEO of Chuck E. Cheese's, Kenji Yukimura, celebrated his 35th birthday on August 19, 2016 at Chuck E. Cheese's flagship Japanese location in Shinjuku, Tokyo.
Advertising campaigns Edit
Chuck E. Cheese's is well known for marketing its flagship fun centers through means of sensationalist television advertisements.
In the late 80s, it declared itself as "Where A Kid Can Be A Kid". This has since become the chain's international marketing slogan. It is not always widely-exploited, being supplanted with other slogans which change frequently over the years.
Much attention was attracted to the chain through its 1999-2012 advertising campaigns, which often depicted children going through usually mundane activities (such as chores or generally unexciting situations) with a child-sized animated Chuck E. either helping out or suddenly making an appearance in surrealist ways, in settings ranging from front gardens to school buildings. The end-result is always a trip to Chuck E. Cheese's, initiated in one way or another.
During this time period, Chuck E. Cheese's was also notable for sponsoring many programs on PBS Kids.
Ever since the 2012 character redesign, Chuck E. was depicted as a much smaller character, now the size of an actual mouse. He also began residing permanently inside his own restaurants. The first set of adverts with the new character (one of said adverts viewable here), introduced in mid-2012 along with the redesigned characters, were slammed by a sizeable portion of the public. Much criticism came over the grammatically-incorrect slogan "Say Cheese, It's Funner", reaching boiling point when a concerned parent started a Change.org petition with the goal of having the advert pulled by CEC Entertainment - this move backfired and the ads continued to air. Another campaign launched in 2013 ("Follow Me To Fun") was also met with lukewarm reception.
In the later stages of 2015, another set of adverts was introduced. CEC Eruowood Co, Ltd. reportedly refused to air the then-new commercials, and continued to run their older ads on local TV.
CEC-ABS Entertainment's new ownership saw changes to their television advertising. The "Say Cheese" ads were re-aired in June 2016 to more mixed reception - however this was only a stop-gap measure whilst ABS' main production subsidiary (STB Television Productions) worked with CEC's former advertising partners at the Zambrelli advertising agency. The end result was realised in the form of totally-overhauled remakes of the Avenger-era live-action/animated ads. These ads premiered in July 2016.
- "Where A Kid Can Be A Kid." (used in all countries not noted below)
North/South America Edit
- "Chuck E. Cheese, please!" (1994)
- "The Real Cool Place to be a Kid" (1996-2004)
- "It's cool, for real." (2004-2008)
- "Say Cheese, It's Funner!" (2012-2013, June 2016)
- "Follow Me To Fun!" (2013)
- "Fun for all. Fun for less." (early 2014)
- "Where Awesome Parents Go." (late 2014)
- "40 Years of Fun!" (2017)
- "Don De Un Niño Puede Ser Niño" (Español)
- "La Où En Enfant Peut Être Un Enfant" (Français)
United Kingdom Edit
- "Follow Me To Fun!" (August-November 2016)
- "When you're hungry for fun..." (Print advertising)
- "Just Say Chuck E. Cheese for food and fun" (1985-1992)
- "Chuck E. Cheese, please!" (1994-1997)
- "When you're hungry for fun..." (2011; Print and online advertising only)
- "We rock the party, because that how we roll" (2012)
- "Follow Me To Fun!" (2013)
- "Chuck E. Cheese, please!" (Television advertising)
- "When you're hungry for fun..." (Print advertising)