This is sad. It looks like Geoffrey the Giraffe might have some company in his unemployment support group for beloved corporate childhood mascots. Charles Entertainment Cheese, known informally as Chuck E. Cheese, is about to be evicted from his home of 43 years and unceremoniously dumped into the street. Which probably isn’t that bad, considering he is a rat, after all. People magazine is reporting that the iconic restaurant that bears his name, Chuck E. Cheese’s, is a mozzarella string away from declaring bankruptcy and shutting down all locations.
Much like many other companies that have been effected by the COVID-19 closure, Chuck E. Cheese’s has lost at least three months worth of revenue. They tried to keep business going on various food delivery apps by selling under the name Pasqually’s Pizza & Wings. When people accused Chuck E. Cheese of trying to them into eating Chuck E. Cheese, the company claimed that Pasqually’s is their way of offering a fancier pizza experience. Clearly Pasqually wasn’t able to pull dollars like they thought he would, because Chuck E. Cheese’s has a mountain of debt on their hands.
CEC Entertainment is almost $1 billion in debt. They’re trying desperately to convince someone to loan them $200 million to stay afloat. But it also sounds like whoever is running the joint isn’t making the best financial decisions right now. CEC Entertainment has offered its top executives $3 million in bonuses, in an attempt to keep them from leaving Chuck E. Cheese’s.
There are 610 Chuck E. Cheese’s locations in 47 states, and all of them are currently closed. 17,000 employees were laid off in March. In April, CEC Entertainment claimed their plan was to consider refinancing, restructuring, or bankruptcy. Two months later, and it’s looking like Option #3 might be most likely to happen. I’m sure this is great news for any adult who was ever traumatized as a child by the soul-haunting gaze of The Chuck E. Cheese Band, or by touching something sticky and questionable on the change machine.
There is a small chance Chuck won’t have to close up. Many businesses are starting to open back up. But I don’t know how Charles Entertainment Cheese thinks he’s going to successfully run his business in a post-coronavirus world. His business was built on germ transfer! Yes, the highest risk for getting sick is simply to eat the food, but you can’t deny that ball pit isn’t also a pretty big threat.