Chuck E. Cheese sang a sad tune on Thursday. The parent company of the kid-friendly pizza place and arcade, CEC Entertainment, announced it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. According to CBS News, the company cited the significant "financial strain" brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.
"The Chapter 11 process will allow us to strengthen our financial structure as we recover from what has undoubtedly been the most challenging event in our company's history and get back to the business of delivering memories, entertainment and pizzas for another 40 years and beyond," CEC Chief Executive David McKillips, said in the statement. So, even though the situation's grim, it sounds like they fully expected the in-house animatronic band will play on at some point. There are also 186 franchisee-owned Chuck E. Cheese locations in the U.S., which operate under the separate legal and financial structure, so they won't be included in the bankruptcy filing.
The first Chuck E. Cheese opened in San Jose, California in 1977, known then as Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza Time Theatre. The whole concept was created by Nolan Bushnell, who's also known as the co-founder Atari. The Pizza Time Theatre was the first family restaurant to integrate food, animated entertainment and an indoor arcade under one roof. The company also filed for bankruptcy back in March 1984, following its acquisition by competing chain ShowBiz Pizza Place in May 1985. Initially referred to as ShowBiz Pizza Time, Inc, the company began unifying the two brands and renaming it simply Chuck E. Cheese.
Though Chuck E. Cheese had started offering its pizza by delivery in the summer of 2019, it did go under a hasty rebrand while numerous businesses were under lockdown. In April, a Philadelphia couple discovered a chain called Pasually's Pizza & Wings on Grubhub and realized the location's address was the same as their local Chuck E. Cheese restaurant. The Detroit Metro Times confirmed the same with a Chuck E. Cheese location there in that city as well.
In an attempt to explain itself, the company told Food & Wine that Pasqually's pizza is already offered inside Chuck E. Cheese restaurants and offers a "more premium pizza experience." While those items are only available through take-out and delivery, the company teased they could show up on the in-restaurant menu at some point. Although it's possible that the bankruptcy will slow that process down a bit.