It is said that there only two things of which we can be certain in this life -- death and taxes. I can't help but agree, with one caveat. There is a little known third item of certainty for those people who are parents. You will, whether you like it or not, end up attending a birthday party held at Chuck E. Cheese. It's inevitable, so you might as well give up all resistance and go with it.
Let me start out by saying what I like about Chuck E. Cheese -- the kids love it. No question about it. From my unscientific survey of the parents I know, however, many parents don't love it, including me. First, there are way too many parties squeezed in there at once at the time, making for a very tight fit and a very high noise level. It's not a comfortable place to hang out. Secondly, a high number of parties means a very high number of kids who are running, screaming, flailing their arms, laughing, crying and more. Just watch the action for a while and you'll see quite a few kids literally slam right into each other, like atoms colliding. Thirdly, again because of the capacity crowd, every game is occupied so there is a bit of waiting involved. It is very difficult to get a child filled to the brim with grease and sugar to be patient. And finally, I think the food is awful. At least, the pizza and the cake are not very good. I haven't ventured to try any of the other items they offer.
They've got us parents in their clutches and we can't escape, because every child wants a party at Chuck E. Cheese. The company, CEC Entertainment Inc., has 420 corporately owned and 48 franchise restaurants in 48 states and 4 countries. (I wonder which 2 states are missing out on this experience.) They are raking in the dough, so they must be doing something right.
I think someone (are you out there reading this right now?!) needs to come up with a more upscale version of Chuck E. Cheese. Someone who is willing to make a little bit less than CEC, maybe, but still quite a lot, by creating a place that parents would love as much as kids. I know I would be willing to pay quite a bit more just so that I could go home from these parties without a blinding headache. Isn't there room for another player in this market? What if there was a place that had better food, more comfortable seating, maybe an espresso machine, better music along the lines of, say, Laurie Berkner and Dan Zanes? Is this all just a pipe dream?