Pasqually’s Pizza & Wings, Chuck E. Cheese’s new virtual brand, received quite the introduction in the spring.
A Reddit user who ordered from the delivery-only brand on Grubhub realized that the food came from the local Chuck. E. Cheese. Others expressed the same conclusion on social media, and soon, the story was covered by several media outlets.
The launch of the brand wasn’t a stunt or experiment, explains Sherri Landry, CMO of Chuck E. Cheese parent company CEC Entertainment. In fact, a growing number of restaurants are moving toward launching delivery-only brands in their brick and mortar kitchens. Applebee’s has Neighborhood Wings, Boston Market has Rotisserie Roast, and Chili’s recently rolled out It’s Just Wings, to name a few.
“At first we were caught a little bit by surprise at that attention, and really around the narrative,” Landry says. “It was important for us to make sure that we were focused on launching the brand and doing it well. So we paused on response, and waited for the right opportunity to tell our story and then respond to any questions that we might receive.”
Pasqually’s Pizza & Wings is named after a member of Munch's Make Believe Band. The pizza uses similar ingredients as Chuck E. Cheese, but differentiates itself with a thicker crust, extra sauce, and new blends of cheese and seasonings.
The brand started with Grubhub in March and added Uber Eats at the end of June. On July 9, DoorDash was onboarded. Landry says Pasqually’s represents about 10 percent of sales.
The virtual brand has been a key stream of revenue for CEC, which saw comparable venue sales drop 94 percent from March 17 to March 26 when dining and arcade rooms first closed. The government mandates hit eatertainment chains like CEC especially hard because of their reliance on experience and parties. In a SEC filing, the company said that historically, merchandise and entertainment revenue have accounted for approximately 56 percent of revenue at company-operated venues.
In early April, the company furloughed most of its hourly employees and approximately 65 percent of its support center personnel and suspended rent, which costs $7 million per month. Later in April, it formed a restructuring committee to evaluate strategic alternatives. In late June, CEC filed for bankruptcy due to the significant effects of the pandemic.
CEC oversees 472 company-owned Chuck E. Cheese restaurants, and all but three are set up to deliver Pasqually’s. However, because of local guidelines and mandates and staff availability, 421 are open and actively selling the virtual brand.
“It’s performed quite well,” Landry says. “We’re excited to see how it’s going to continue to perform. We launched this brand in late March on Grubhub, and the results were promising. … We feel like this platform has legs and look forward to what it’s going to do for CEC Entertainment.”
Not only is Pasqually’s growing in terms of third-party platforms, but also it’s menu selection. The brand is adding Giant Cheesy Bread, Twice Baked Wings, and an Iced Brownie.
The Giant Cheesy Brand includes garlic butter, shredded mozzarella, and cheddar cheeses baked onto a house-made dough and cut into sticks. It’s served with marinara and ranch. The wings bring new flavors like Spicy Korean BBQ, Honey Hot, and Lemon Pepper and Chili Lime Dry Rubs.
Landry says the new items were the result of leveraging knowledge around the category, understanding trends and taste profiles, and putting research into action.
“The newest ideation allowed us to add flavors that were a little more bold to the menu, including some wing flavors that we added to the portfolio,” Landry says. “… We looked at competitors in the space to see what their top-performing flavors were and then we worked with different vendor partners to find the right seasonings and the right flavor profiles for this brand and then we launched it,” Landry says.
Landry notes that Pasqually’s was borne out of an innovation process in which Chuck E. Cheese noticed consumers’ demand for convenience. The trend has been on the company’s radar for several years as food delivery brands grew.
She says the brand brainstormed how to enter a space driven by a younger consumer who is willing to go online and try different restaurants often.
When COVID hit, Chuck E. Cheese took a momentary pause to plan around operations and ensure protection for employees and guests. The pandemic proved to be the best time to launch the brand with a large amount of consumers home-bound and quarantined.
“When people are at home looking for convenience—even outside of COVID time when people weren’t at home as much—people look for great food,” Landry says. “Chuck E. Cheese has great pizza. Pasqually’s leverages the operational infrastructure and ingredients to deliver a bold, great tasting, robust pizza that’s specifically designed for a more mature taste. We believe that it really is about the food and the taste that you get when you have a Pasqually’s Pizza and/or wings and/or cheesy bread delivered to you.”
“I think the initial success was just about curiosity,” she adds. “People want to know, what is this new brand? And if you’re a brand fan of Chuck E. Cheese, you know who Pasqually is. They’re curious to know what Pasqually’s might taste like.”
Landry says all of CEC’s brands—Chuck E. Cheese, Peter Piper Pizza, and Pasqually’s—are designed to cater to families and consumers looking for different experiences.
Chuck E. Cheese has a sweet spot with younger kids while Pasqually’s is the ideal option for the millennial and Generation Z customer.
“It ultimately allows people who may have grown out of the ‘I want to go to Chuck E. Cheese’ phase to still indulge in a magnificent food item in the pizza and the wings and desserts that we offer, and relive some of their childhood memories while eating this pizza that was perfectly crafted for them,” Landry says.