Chuck E. Cheese welcomes back families, navigates bankruptcy

Family-friendly restaurant closed for 7 months
Posted at 6:59 PM, Sep 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-21 18:59:40-04

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. — Bouncing back while in the pandemic is a struggle more businesses are facing. That includes longtime family restaurant chain, Chuck E. Cheese.

However, after filing for bankruptcy this summer, the classic entertainment hub for childhood memories is showing signs of making a comeback after more than 40 years in business.

There are nearly 600 Chuck E. Cheese locations worldwide, including several sites in South Florida.

Lucille Coppola, general manager of the Chuck E. Cheese in Boynton Beach, is welcoming customers back after reopening last weekend.

The pandemic forced the site to shutter its doors for seven months.

"We have so many customers who say how they remember coming here as children, and now they're coming here with their grandchildren," Coppola said. "Unfortunately, businesses go through difficult times."

The restaurant is reopening with significant changes to its business strategy and following all CDC, federal, state and local guidelines.

Temperature checks are administered as customers enter the doors.

Employees are also stationed in the game room to ensure the equipment is sterilized between each use.

Lucille Coppola
Lucille Coppola, the general manager of a Chuck E. Cheese location in Boynton Beach, Fla., says the business implemented a variety of safety measures to ensure customers feel safe.

Chuck E. Cheese's parent company, CEC Entertainment, continues to reopen more restaurants and arcades every week despite the financial strain from the pandemic.

"Separately, we've been working closely with our financial stakeholders and our advisors as part of our Chapter 11 process to develop a plan to maximize value and best position our company to become the world's greatest family entertainment brand," said CEC Entertainment CEO David McKillips.

McKillips also said CEC reached an agreement earlier this month to access $200 million in special financing, which was allowed through the Chapter 11 process to support ongoing business operations.

"This demonstrates confidence in our business and the positive momentum toward achieving our longer-term financial goals," said McKillips.

Economists said it is relatively common for a company to file for bankruptcy to strengthen its financial structure.

"We should expect more bankruptcies than usual," said Dr. William Luther, assistant professor of economics at Florida Atlantic University.

Luther said more companies are expected to file for Chapter 11 through the end of the year.

"There is some good news here," Luther said. "We have to keep in mind that there have been a lot of resources to help those businesses weather the storm."

The Federal Reserve established the Primary Market Corporate Credit Facility (PMCCF) on March 23 to support credit to employers through bond and loan issuances.

The Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility was also created to support credit to employers by providing liquidity to the market for outstanding corporate bonds.

Many small businesses were eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program, a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll.

Luther also stressed that businesses are more likely to be successful if they adapt and evolve to satisfy new customer needs.

Coppola is enticing families to return to the Boynton Beach restaurant with discounted menu options and offering private birthday parties if requested.

"We're making it work," said Coppola. "Whatever it takes."

Chuck E. Cheese is hosting a series of events and discounts for families to celebrate Halloween through the month of October.

The restaurant chain is also offering fundraising opportunities for schools as the fall school year gets underway.

Click here to find a Chuck E. Cheese location near you.