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People React To Chuck E. Cheese Parent Company Filing For Bankruptcy


COVID-19's been hard on everyone, including this mouse.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As Chuck E. Cheese) Hey there. It's your best pal, Chuck E. Cheese.


For those who need an introduction, Chuck E. Cheese is the mouse-cot - sorry, we had to - the mouse-cot of a chain of family entertainment centers. But he's under some stress.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As Chuck E. Cheese) Don't you ever just have one of those days where you don't feel like doing anything?

SHAPIRO: Yeah, like a day when your company files for bankruptcy? That's the kind of day Chuck E. Cheese had last week.

KELLY: Before we go any further, let us explain Chuck E. Cheese to the uninitiated. It is part arcade and part restaurant. Parents bring their kids to run free, play games, touch things, have a good time, touch some more things. It's a favorite for birthday parties. All the zinging and dinging of these games and the screaming, mostly mirthful, of these children could bring out the Grinch in any parent. But for the kids...

JESS KLASS: So quintessential to the childhood of a lot of millennials or, like, people kind of, like, in my age range. It's just something that many of us experienced.

KELLY: That is instructional tech consultant Jess Klass (ph) of Chicago. Part of that experience - picture a ball pit full of children, full of plastic balls, all rolling around together. For parents, it felt like rolling your kids through an airplane bathroom after a cross-country flight.

SHAPIRO: Yeah, and that was before COVID-19. Humorist Dave Barry wrote to us to pile on after he heard the bankruptcy news.

KELLY: I quote, "This is a sad day for America, especially for families who will no longer be able to celebrate their children's birthdays by eating seriously mediocre pizza and watching fights break out between other birthday-celebrating families."

SHAPIRO: David Henkes is with the restaurant consulting firm Technomic. And he says Chuck E. Cheese is stuck with big stores and big debt.

DAVID HENKES: Eatertainment's always been very challenged in order to stay relevant with the consumer. Our projection looking ahead for 2020 and into 2021 is that it's going to struggle for a number of years.

KELLY: Bad news for Chuck E. Cheese. But we learned a new term - eatertainment.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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