No question what the most exciting deal of 2014 has been so far, at least as far as First Round is concerned: Apollo’s near $1 billion acquisition of US restaurant chain Chuck E. Cheese.
Now First Round is painfully aware that nostalgia ain’t what it used to be. But many moons ago, as a very young magazine intro section, it very clearly remembers thinking that Chuck E.Cheese should be the model for all dining establishments. What’s not to like about a venue where children could run riot in cavernous dark arcades, skirting slightly anxiously around grotesque motorised rodents before pausing occasionally to consume cardboard-esque pizza or play an overpriced game – while the grown-ups would sit at the table looking nervous, drowning their sorrows in pitchers of beer.
However, it’s probably fair to say that Chuck E. Cheese isn’t quite what it used to be (even though an expensive refit a few years back made it feel slightly less like a 1980s time capsule). Gone are the dark corners and dubious security, replaced by sensible lighting and wrist stamps. Apparently you can’t even buy beer any more. How do they seriously expect parents to survive their kids’ birthday parties now?
Anyway, the hope has to be that the new owners sprinkle a bit of magic dust on Chuck E. Cheese and restore it to its former glory (health and safety regulations notwithstanding).
As for Apollo, this is surely a tactical masterstroke, on many levels. Not only do they get to own a much-loved consumer brand. They also get an outstanding new venue for their next Christmas party. After all, once you’ve seen the inside of one five-star hotel, you’ve seen them all – much better to get all those sharp-suited dealmakers to trek down to their local Chuck E. Cheese and spend the night feasting on buffalo wings, while Chuck E, Helen Henny and co serenade them from the stage.