Chuck E. Cheese Is Testing Its First Tiered Membership Program

Fans won't soon forget when Chuck E. Cheese listed itself as "Pasqually's Pizza & Wings" on Grubhub during the pandemic. Customers found themselves in a sort of comical "bait-and-switch" when their orders arrived and they learned that they had just been delivered a Chuck E. Cheese pizza. Per the company lore, "Pasqually P. Pieplate" is the character who makes the pizzas, and the franchise used the alias to keep its food takeout business afloat while the playroom doors remained shut.

The point is that Chuck E. Cheese has a long and fascinating history of coming up with ways to stay relevant and elbow its way to the front of the action. Now, the franchise has just announced that it's testing tiered subscriptions, the first-ever membership program in company history, per Nation's Restaurant News. The program includes Bronze, Silver, and Gold levels with a $7.99-$29.99 monthly membership fee, respectively. All tiers come with one Play Card for every child in the family, plus surprise bonus prizes that'll pop up at different points throughout the year.

Bronze members ($7.99) get 70 Play Points per month, a 20% discount for food and drinks, and 200 e-tickets that can be cashed in on prizes. Silver members ($11.99) get 300 e-tickets, a 30% discount on food and drinks. Gold members ($29.99) get 300 Play Points, 1,000 e-tickets, and a 50% food and drink discount. All members will receive additional Play Points with each visit.

How effective are tiered subscription models?

For now, the membership program pilot testing is limited to San Diego but is expected to expand to other regional markets later this year. In 2021, Chuck E. Cheese introduced a similar tiered "Summer Fun Passes" program, which has proven successful. The Summer pass also offers three levels with increasing benefits for increasing prices.

As inflation remains high and the post-pandemic world remains, well, changed, more and more restaurants are rolling out subscription programs to maintain customer loyalty. In many cases, it's working. As of the fourth fiscal quarter of 2023, recurring payment models have demonstrated driving engagement and strong retention. According to a report by Square, restaurant subscription programs are up 54% year-over-year as of last August. Of the customers who subscribed, 57% were still making purchases by the six-month mark. Still, these figures contrast with those from a 2022 PYMNTS survey of 2,000 consumers which found that 58% of them felt little to no interest in being offered a subscription service by a restaurant.

Tiered pricing can be a lucrative alternative to flat-rate pricing, offering flexibility and scalability to meet customers where they are. The cost per feature goes down the more the customer buys, but businesses can upsell different services for added revenue, and high-value options can be worth it to attract foot traffic and keep it coming back. Targeting budget-conscious foodies could be a good move for attracting untapped adult customers, which might be why Chuck E. Cheese is also rolling out a new "Grown-Up Menu.