Dan Naden

Chuck E. Cheese’s childhood magic leads to adult dullness

If there’s a children’s birthday party frequent flier club, I am approaching medallion status. When I walk into the Castle Jumpy Gym place, they know me by name and immediately upgrade me. “Naden, let’s get you to the JUMBO jumpy gym.”

A recent dreary weekend, my son and I visited a local Chuck E. Cheese to celebrate the birthday party of one of his school classmates. I vaguely recall many halcyon visits when I was a youngster in the 70s to the colorful Showbiz Pizza, the predecessor to Chuck E. Cheese. Halcyon isn’t exactly how I’d describe my visit as a parent; how about hectic, harried, and helter-skelter? Chaos thrives in this brightly-colored, noisy celebration destination.

I adored the place as a youngster. When an invite came in the mail for a Showbiz Pizza birthday party, I’d sleep with the invite, bring it to breakfast, and talk about it until my parents got a pounding headache.

Inflatable castle
To an adult, this means torn ACL.

As a discerning adult, I now find myself evaluating the establishment while keeping an eye on my energetic, active son. I attempt to let go and guide my son to experience the young magic of the place.

Call me a tough sell, but, for an adult, everything about Chuck E. Cheese is average. The games are dull. The food is flavorless. The prizes are cheap. The din is deafening. The place is a bit untidy.

The company must be doing something right; they just celebrated their 30th anniversary and have 542 locations across the world with nearly $250M in quarterly revenues, but with their growth, scale, success is there opportunity?

What if Chuck E. Cheese improved the quality of their food, the entertainment, the prizes, the experience? Perhaps I am in the minority, but I am far from a raving, viral, walking advertisement for Chuck E. Cheese. The kids aren’t certainly complaining; my son would gladly venture back into the bells and whistles of Chuck E. Cheese tomorrow if he had the opportunity.

[polldaddy poll=4415193]

I ‘might’ cave if my son wants his next birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese, yet I’d become an brand evangelist and sign up NOW  for my son’s Chuck E. Cheese birthday party if the experience started to approach outstanding. There’s pizzazz and memories galore for adults AND kids if Chuck E. Cheese put QUALITY on center stage.

What is your business doing to put quality in all that you do? Don’t get lackadaisical with your approach to products, markets, the experience. You may have one segment of your market supremely satisfied while another group begins to look elsewhere.

I’ll meet you at the jumpy gym.

Until next time,

Dan Naden

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