Concept Targets Gamers with the Munchies

Discussion
May 31, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson

The creator of Pong and founder of the Chuck E. Cheese restaurant chain has another idea for how to entertain and feed consumers at the same time.

Nolan Bushnell is opening a new 300-seat restaurant in Los Angeles called Media Bistro that replaces waiters and waitresses with touch-screen monitors at every table to allow patrons to order food and drinks and play video games, as well.

According to a report in The New York Times, “The monitors at the tables will be two-sided, so that two people, or two couples, will be able to play video games against each other. The restaurant will be divided into two sections, one with more casual gaming at the tables and another where games can be organized for large groups, as in bingo halls.”

Mr. Bushnell is looking to turn a profit by holding down labor costs. He is also looking to generate incremental revenue by running commercials and conducting consumer surveys through the monitors at each table.

If consumers feel intruded on by the commercial messages, Mr. Bushnell said, “We’ll stop it.”

If the Los Angeles unit should prove successful, than Mr. Bushnell expects to open additional restaurants in colder northern states where consumers look indoors for more of their entertainment.

Not all are convinced that Media Bistro is a winning concept. Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush Morgan Securities, said, “Do I need to marry those two things (restaurant and video games)? It’s like saying you’re going to combine a restaurant and a barbershop.”

P. J. McNealy, a video game industry analyst with American Technology Research, doesn’t know if Media Bistro will be a hit but he doesn’t see the concept as a stretch. He views Mr. Bushnell’s latest project as continuing “the trend of business model experimentation.”

Moderator’s Comment: What do you think about the Media Bistro concept described in The New York Times‘ article? Are there lessons retailers can
learn from this case and others in the foodservice, entertainment and other businesses relative to fostering individual creativity and developing a company-wide culture of innovation?


George Anderson – Moderator

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5 Comments on "Concept Targets Gamers with the Munchies"


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Marilyn Raymond
Guest
Marilyn Raymond
15 years 9 months ago

With more and more folks turning to the food service industry to feed themselves, more am more restaurants are being filled by individuals – one person sittings. I think it is kind of nice to be able to go into an environment that isn’t a bar, have some fun while eating – even if you are on your own!

Rick Moss
Guest
15 years 9 months ago
I believe there’s a lot of potential here, in fact, perhaps more than can be dealt with all at once. Kids in this age group are sorely in need of a social venue (other than parked cars and street corners), so assuming they have the money to spend, it could tap into an unclaimed market. However, there are a lot of variables (i.e. complications) standing in the way of success. For instance, how long do they want to encourage customers to occupy the tables and play games? Will they make more money if they keep the tables turning over for more meals, or from gaming charges from kids just “hanging out”? At what point does patronage become loitering? Then there are questions of maintaining the equipment. (Just imagine what’s going to wind up smeared across the touchscreens.) And, of course I’m not much of a “gamer,” but personally, the heavy action games just make be dizzy and nauseated. Not the kind of thing I’d want to mix with a meal. (Probably a generational thing.) Years… Read more »
Nikki Baird
Guest
Nikki Baird
15 years 9 months ago

I have seen a number of concepts lately – restaurant, retail, and entertainment – that tout how they’re going to ‘revolutionize’ the [insert restaurant, retail, or entertainment] industry through the use of technology. The focus on technology scares me – and almost guarantees that the concept won’t last.

How about focusing on the experience instead? What kind of experience is this new concept trying to deliver? A teen hangout experience? Not if it’s targeting 21-35 year olds. A dining experience? Not with minimal service, and the focus clearly isn’t on food. A gaming experience? Hmm. Maybe. But how many target gamers are really going to give up their big screen TV’s and wicked sound systems (and, according to my husband, light control – critical to games with lots of night or dark scenes) to hang out in a loud, crowded, rapidly obsoleted techno-greasy spoon? Not many, if you ask me.

Great novelty factor, no lasting impact.

James Tenser
Guest
15 years 9 months ago

I agree that the experience is the thing. With that in mind, here’s a pesky question: Should the proprietor supply the experience in this business? Or do the patrons create it for themselves? I view this concept as a long shot, but one with interesting potential. Compare it to a bowling alley – where the game is the draw, and the food is secondary. Step up to better fast casual fare and encourage patrons to organize gaming leagues on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Since the games are online, the leagues can spread virtually into national tournaments. Maybe there’s a franchisable business here…

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
15 years 9 months ago

As Charles Darwin said, “I love foolish experiments; I am always making them.” And he succeeded. But, not being as sage as Darwin, on this indoor experiment in outdoors LaLaLand …

I have a hunchie, that “gamers and munchies” is slated for the crunchies.

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