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Restaurants target families with gaming approach

Restaurants target families with gaming approach

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A new report from research firm Packaged Facts finds that marketing strategies that use digital games to attract families with young children are gaining traction in the restaurant industry. If that’s the case, we can’t wait to see what happens when potential customers start downloading new Dave & Buster’s-branded mobile game apps. Not only is the chain making mobile-friendly versions of its three most-addictive arcade games available. They’re free.

It sounds like a smart competitive move to make. “Indeed, digital entertainment can be leveraged to increase brand engagement with kids,” says David Sprinkle, research director for Rockville, MD-based Packaged Facts. “Digital gaming provides the opportunity for restaurant operators to bridge the gap in marketing to the whole family.”

Foodservice Marketing Trends in the U.S.: Technology, Mobile and Social Media is a proprietary report that must be purchased directly from Packaged Facts. But some of the results Packaged Facts has made public suggest families with children are juicy targets indeed for digital marketers. The report found that in addition to game-playing, restaurant-goers with kids are:

• 73 percent more likely than average to get personalized deals with mobile apps
• 70 percent more likely to scan a QR code
• 56 percent more likely to pay for their meal with via a mobile app
• 57 percent more likely to place an order for pickup
• 61 percent more likely to place an order for delivery

It’s not groundbreaking news that kids like to play games on digital devices or that their parents appreciate the multiple conveniences the devices provide.  “Kids are irresistibly drawn to mobile devices and games,” Richard Hart, digital director at Kidzsmart, tells the National Restaurant Association. “In fact, 75 percent of kids under the age of eight own and routinely use at least one mobile device.”

Expect them to start pestering their parents to take them to Dave & Buster’s soon, something their game-loving parents may be eager to do. The 72-unit chain is swinging for the fences with its new digital marketing effort. The program is designed to attract customers of all ages to its stores to eat, drink and play games in the arcade, even though the apps make it possible for smartphone users to enjoy a small part of the D&B experience without setting foot in one of its stores.
What’s with the giveaway?

“Mobile gaming has legitimized gaming in a way,” says Kevin Bachus, the company’s senior v.p. of entertainment and games strategy. “There’s not really anyone who comes in our doors who doesn’t play on their phones or tablets. This is our way to connect with guests when they’re not in the stores.” 

Bachus knows his games. He was the co-creator of Microsoft’s first Xbox gaming console. For this effort he decided to give mobile gamers access to Big Bass Wheel, Speed of Light and Tippin’ Blocs, the three most popular arcade games Dave & Buster’s offers.

“We wanted to enhance our in-store experience by providing a virtual experience,” he told the Dallas Business Journal.

So what will bring these game-players into the stores when they already have the best games on their phones? Just as in the actual arcade, players earn points than can be used to claim prizes when they visit a Dave & Buster’s. The idea is that the free games will keep the chain top of mind as a place to go to eat, drink and play full-size versions of these and other games. Players have to acquire a D&B Power Card to store their points, which can then be redeemed at any D&B unit.

We’ll find out soon how well this strategy works. But you can bet that Dave & Buster’s competitors are going to have to boost the quality and addictive nature of their games to keep up.

“We didn’t just put an arcade game on your phone; we made these games feel ‘native’ to mobile,” Bachus says. “These games are about more than winning tickets—these are really good, really fun games you will want to play.”

The D&B Apps are available for both iOS and Android devices. 


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