Concept Targets Gamers with the Munchies
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