Dave & Buster's Eyes Younger Gamers With Acquisition Of Main Event


Dave & Buster’s Entertainment is broadening its demographic reach with the planned acquisition of family entertainment chain Main Event for $835 million.

Main Event’s 50 U.S. locations cater mainly to families with young children, while the 145-unit Dave & Buster’s chain is frequented mostly by young adults.

Besides food and beverages, Main Event is known for such entertainment activities as bowling, laser tag, arcade games and virtual reality experiences.

Dave & Buster’s entered the in-restaurant entertainment space with the classic games lPop-A-Shot, Pac-Man and Skee-Ball, and has added huge television screens for viewing sporting events and multi-player games like Hungry Hungry Hippos.

While independent and casual-dining restaurants were the hardest hit by the pandemic because their on-premise business far outweighed takeout and delivery, the impact has varied.



For example, the worst month last year for Dave & Buster’s was January, when foot traffic fell 47.3% compared to January of 2019, according to place-based data provider

By comparison, Dallas-based Main Event’s traffic declined 26.4% in January 2021.

Part of the difference could be geographical, as “most of Main Event's locations are in Texas, which has looser restrictions on restaurants," says head of analytical research R.J. Hottovy.

In the fiscal year ended Jan. 30, Dave & Buster’s revenue was down 3.7% compared to pre-pandemic 2019, while net income recovered to $108.6 million from a net loss of $207.0 million in fiscal 2020.

Owned by Australia-based Ardent Leisure Group Limited and RedBird Capital Partners of Manhattan, Main Event does not release financial data.

In response to the pandemic, Dave & Buster’s slashed ad spending from $54.9 million in 2019 to $18.9 million in 2020, according to Kantar.

Last year, Dave & Buster’s spent just $2.8 million.

Kantar does not track paid search and its data cover network radio only through March of 2021.

In the past month, Dave & Buster’s has released several new commercials—ranging from a meal/game card promo to a suggested, sun-avoidance “indoor spring break.”

One of Main Event’s major initiatives over the past year was titled “Above And Beyonders,” in which 12 people and families who had done charitable acts for their communities were awarded a free year’s worth of activities, games and food.

When the acquisition closes later this year, Main Event CEO Chris Morris will become CEO of Dave & Buster’s, replacing Brian Jenkins, who retired last year.

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