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Social distancing puts pressure on restaurant-entertainment venues.

Coronavirus puts pressure on restaurant-entertainment brands

Big-box venues — from Dave & Buster’s and Chuck E. Cheese’s to Main Event — wrestle with coronavirus impact on restaurants

Social distancing as a way to stem the coronavirus pandemic is putting pressure on the restaurant-entertainment sector, which before the outbreak had been showing strength in attracting consumers seeking alternatives when dining out.

With newer players such as Punch Bowl Social giving new vibrance to the section, big restaurant-entertainment brands had been building.

However, longtime brands such as public restaurant-entertainment chain Dave & Buster’s Entertainment have seen investors turn antisocial. Dallas-based Dave & Buster’s has seen its stock price plummet more than 82% since Jan. 2, when shares closed at $40.68. On Monday, Dave & Buster’s stock price fell 45.7% to $7.20 a share.

“Perhaps some competitors may no longer be such, so there may be opportunities for greater market share or consolidation,” said Philip Kaplan, CEO of San Francisco-based GameWorks Inc., an e-gaming and dining brand that has had to close its seven units because of state and municipal bans on dine-in restaurants and game venues.

“Our business plan is to be the No. 1 e-sports operator,” he said in an email, and that relies on “two secular trends: Rotation of retail space toward experiential and the rise of e-sports — both of which are unaffected by a virus.”

Irving, Texas-based CEC Entertainment Inc., parent to the Chuck E. Cheese’s and Peter Piper Pizza family dining and games venues, on Monday suspended on-premise dining and its arcade rooms at all company-operated units.

“Both Peter Piper Pizza and Chuck E. Cheese will remain open for carry-out orders,” the company said, as well as third-party apps.

“In addition, starting Wednesday, March 18, Chuck E. Cheese will debut new value-priced family packages for pick-up or delivery including two birthday party celebration packages that will enable guests to bring home pizza, cake and goodie bags for at-home birthday celebrations,” the company said. “Peter Piper Pizza will offer family value bundles and birthday celebration packages available for carry-out.”

The 612-unit Chuck E. Cheese’s brand also is promoting its smartphone apps, where children can earn virtual tickets to redeem when stores re-open, and its song and dance videos on YouTube Kids with audio versions available on Spotify and Podcast.

Plano, Texas-based Main Event, which has 44 U.S. entertainment centers, closed all its units on Tuesday to comply with the White House’s Monday guidance that Americans limit groups to 10 or fewer.

“The reach and impact of the COVID-19 is still unknown, and we feel an obligation as a business leader to do our part to protect our communities,” the company said in a statement Tuesday. The centers will be closed through at least the end of March, Main Event said.

“While unfortunate, this is a very necessary decision,” the company said. “It is essential for us to prioritize the health of our team members and guests above any other business measure.”

Main Event, which is known for its bowling lanes and arcade-style games, said it had eliminated any event cancellation charges through April 30.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

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