For David McKillips, returning to Chuck E. Cheese at 9175 Roosevelt Blvd. was like returning home.
In January, McKillips took over the role of CEO of CEC Entertainment, the parent company of Chuck E. Cheese. When he stopped at the Northeast Philly restaurant during his tour of locations across the country, it reminded him of the beginning of his career at Sesame Place, where he worked as promotions manager.
“This is like a homecoming to come back to Philly and Northeast Philly specifically,” he said.
It was just one of hundreds of stops McKillips is making on his self-dubbed listening and leadership tour, during which he’s meeting with cast members to discuss the company’s dedication to diversity and inclusion and its plan to survive through the COVID-19 pandemic.
He also discussed the company’s recent Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection filing, which allows for a company to reorganize to keep itself financially stable. Though this means some locations that were open before the pandemic will never open again, so far 270 locations have reopened – and the Boulevard location will, too, once the city fully enters the green phase.
“For the entire restaurant business, especially ours because we’re a high-touch entertainment experience, it’s been incredibly challenging,” McKillips said.
Even though it’s been closed, the Boulevard location has still been busy. When it does reopen, guests and cast members will receive a mandatory temperature check before they enter the restaurant. Games are spaced 6 feet away from each other and there are sanitizing stations throughout the location. Games, restaurants and dining rooms will be sanitized every 30 minutes.
As far as face masks, McKillips said they are following local guidance on requiring them. Wearing a mask is required at the Boulevard location as it is mandatory to wear a mask in public spaces in the state.
The restaurant can fit 436 at full capacity, but expects to accommodate only half of that when the location reopens, so kids shouldn’t toss out their tokens just yet.
During shutdown, the chain celebrated a national day of giving, with restaurants around the world giving away pizzas to first responders and healthcare workers. The Boulevard location donated pizza to Nazareth Hospital.
Those craving Chuck E. Cheese now can order party packs for delivery that include pizzas, goody bags filled with games and toys and tickets to use on your next visit. The packs can be found on delivery services like DoorDash, Uber Eats and GrubHub.
Despite the filing, McKillips is excited for the future for the mouse, which he hopes includes television, animation and possibly even a movie one day.
“It is my goal to be in all aspects of entertainment. We want to be the greatest family entertainment brand in the world,” he said.
As for the animatronic mouse himself, he’s taking a break from the dance floor for now, though kids can check in with him daily on the official YouTube channel.
McKillips was previously president of the international development company at Six Flags and vice president of advertising and custom publishing at DC Comics. In the future, he hopes to open more locations globally, expanding on the company’s 77 international locations. But right now, the company’s cashing all its tokens on one goal.
“Right now we’re really opening here safely, which is the most important thing,” he said. ••