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Eatertainment Chains: Full on Food, Fun, and Foot Traffic

by 
Ezra Carmel
 on 
May 30, 2024
Eatertainment Chains: Full on Food, Fun, and Foot Traffic

Eatertainment chains – entertainment concepts that combine dining and play – are thriving in the current experience economy. We dove into the data for game and restaurant chains Dave & Buster’s and Main Event Entertainment (acquired by Dave & Buster’s in 2022) to better understand how eatertainment is driving success in 2024.

Key Takeaways

  • In Q1 2024, Dave & Buster’s and Main Event enjoyed YoY visit growth of 4.4% and 1.3%, respectively.
  • Increasing customer loyalty as well as a growing share of late-night visits have likely contributed to the continued success of these chains.

Year-Over-Year: Reasons to Cheer

The past few years have been challenging ones for restaurants. But eatertainment has a special draw – and since November 2023, both Dave & Buster’s and Main Event Entertainment have seen mainly positive YoY visit growth. 

In January 2024, visits slowed in the wake of extreme weather that rocked much of the country and led many would-be diners to stay home. But in February and March 2024 things picked up again, with the two chains seeing YoY visit growth ranging from 4.6% to 10.6%.  

Again in April 2024, both Dave & Buster’s and Main Event Entertainment experienced minor visit gaps. But a closer look at weekly visits reveals that this was largely due to a calendar shift: April 2024 had one fewer Saturday than April 2023 – the chains' busiest day of the week by far. (In Q1 2024, Saturdays accounted for 33.8% of total visits to Main Event Entertainment and 33.3% of visits to Dave & Buster’s). And during nearly every individual week of April 2024, the brands maintained strongly positive momentum. 

Feeling Special(s): Cultivating Loyal Audiences 

Dave & Buster’s and Main Event Entertainment recent visit growth has been partly fueled by the two chains’ growing store counts. And a deeper dive into how the chains’ visitation patterns have evolved since COVID shows why they are well-positioned for continued expansion – and success. 

One factor likely contributing to the eatertainment brands’ strength is the increasing loyalty of their visitors. Dave & Buster’s leveled up its rewards program in 2021 – and has been upping its loyalty game ever since. Members can access special deals, like the chain’s recent 50% off food promotion, and earn points by playing games or ordering off the menu. Main Event, too, keeps customers coming back with a variety of promotions, from Monday Night Madness to Kids Eat Free Tuesdays – a particularly attractive offer for the chain’s family-oriented audience.

And since 2019, both chains have seen a steady increase in the share of visits made by customers frequenting the chain at least twice a month. 

When the Time is Right: Visits Late at Night

In addition, both Dave & Buster’s and Main Event appear to be finding success by leaning into the evening daypart. 

Back in 2019, Main Event introduced a late-night menu and announced that all of its stores would be open until at least 12:00 AM – and even later on Fridays and Saturdays. (Even before that, some of its stores were open during the wee hours). Dave & Buster’s has also taken steps to increase its night-time business with special late-night deals and happy hours.  

And location analytics indicates that this strategy is bearing fruit. Over the past several years, both brands have experienced an increase in their share of late-night visits (i.e. those taking place between 9:00 PM and 2:00 AM). And in Q1 2024, Dave & Buster’s and Main Event saw 23.9% and 27.3% of their total visits during the late-night daypart, respectively. 

While it might be assumed that at-home entertainment and the "Netflix effect" pose a threat to eatertainment chains (particularly during the evening hours, as there is more content than ever to get home to), the data suggests that many consumers are staying out late for social dining and entertainment.

More Fun to be Had

Demand for dining and social experiences continues to grow. As consumer behavior and demographics evolve, how will these eatertainment chains perform and which new concepts may rise to prominence as 2024 progresses? 

Visit Placer.ai to find out.

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