Dave & Buster’s Wants to Grow Up

The barcade chain shifting its marketing approach from kids to adults.

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Dave & Buster's games
Photo: Jeff Bukowski (Shutterstock)

Huge news for innocent civilians of a particular marketing demographic: After years of positioning itself as a hangout for families with young kids, Dave & Buster’s is making plans to better target millennials and Gen Z.

The barcade/restaurant chain is back to performing at pre-COVID levels, with record revenues at the end of the third quarter—numbers that might have something to do with the brand acquiring arcade restaurant chain The Main Event earlier this year.

Despite the overall increase, however, same-store sales (at locations that have been open for more than a year) have decreased by 6.7% compared to 2019. But Dave & Buster’s has a plan for reversing those trends, as reported by Nation’s Restaurant News.

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“Our core brand position for our Dave & Buster’s brand going forward will bring greater focus to executing adult occasions aged 21 to 39 who are visiting our locations to have a great time with their squad,” said Dave & Buster’s CEO and fervent user of the word “squad” Chris Morris. “Over the months and years to come, this refined brand positioning will guide our marketing strategy, entertainment innovation pipeline, food and beverage offering, store design and layout, and tech-enabled hospitality model.”

The future longevity of the premiere divorced dad hangout depends on you, 21-to-39-year-olds. It’s the barcade version of your mom guilting you into having children. Without you, what spaces will we have left for every invitee of a bachelor party to ascertain that the best man’s severe emotional investment in Skee-Ball is a cry for help?

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I have never been to Dave & Buster’s because I’ve never been invited to go, nor have I ever taken the initiative to step inside one myself. I Googled pictures of it and the color scheme is giving me a migraine. But I wouldn’t not go.

Here are my ideas for things that Dave & Buster’s should do to further cater to millennials:

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  • Install any version of Whac-A-Mole. I would go if D&B had any game where I could use a small mallet. Is something like this already on the premises? Maybe I should go.
  • Add a ball pit. The last time I was in a ball pit was a few years ago at the City Museum in St. Louis, and while I can’t get over how metallic that place smells, it is fun to be in a ball pit. Everyone coming together to relinquish their sense of control to waddle around looking dumb as hell and having the time of their lives? Why not? If D&B is trying to pitch this to a new demographic, maybe Phoebe Bridgers could be there?
  • Keep the food the same. Don’t do that thing that trendy movie theaters have started doing where they convince you that eating a $23 Beyond Burger during your movie is satisfying. There’s enough pain in the world.
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In the meantime, I’ll be working on my hand-eye coordination.