Chuck E. Cheese’s, which markets itself as the place where a kid can be a kid, is improving its menu so it also can be a place where a parent can eat like an adult.
In April, the 585-unit division of Irving, Texas-based CEC Entertainment Inc., began offering thin-and-crispy-crust pizzas with fresh spinach and mushrooms or barbecued chicken, along with boneless chicken wings, ciabatta sandwiches, whole wheat wraps and a churros dessert.
And in October, the brand plans to launch its first limited-time offer, a Mac-Cheesy macaroni and cheese pizza.
Long known for its kid-friendly menu, Chuck E. Cheese has been changing their menu over time.
“We want people to give us a second look,” said Gregory Casale, a former fine-dining chef who now serves as the company’s senior director of culinary innovation.
Parent company CEC also owns Peter Piper Pizza.
Casale said CEC recently conducted a blind tasting with 413 people, and 57 percent of them preferred the Chuck E. Cheese’s thin and crispy pepperoni over a similar pie from Pizza Hut.
While the pepperoni is popular, Casale said, “I would say the Cali Alfredo has been the No. 1 favorite. Parents recognize the ingredients as being better than what they usually see.” It has fresh mushrooms and spinach, as well as chicken and sausage.
The menu renovation has roots in Casale’s background in fine dining. He opened Gregory’s Grill in Scottsdale, Ariz., in 1997, and followed it with Gregory’s World Bistro, open from 2001 to 2004.
Casale said Chuck E. Cheese’s had never had limited items, but that is changing this fall. The first limited-time offer will be a macaroni and cheese pizza, called the Mac-Cheesy, in October.
“Although that sounds kid-centric, we all have a little bit of kid inside of us,” he said. “I want the LTOs to be family friendly. The Mac-Cheesy is right up that alley. It will also offer parents something new and exciting on a regular basis.”
Thin and crispy crusts, which use the traditional Chuck E. Cheese’s dough stretched by hand onto a rectangular mesh baking screen, are a platform to which any pizza toppings can be added, Casale said.
Chuck E. Cheese’s has also added coffee to its units, and in some in-store tests offers specialty coffee drinks like latte and cappuccino. “The numbers on that look really, really good,” Casale said.
Chuck E. Cheese’s rolled out gluten-free pizzas in 2012.
Chuck E. Cheese’s also has a new tagline: “We’re not playing games with your food anymore.”