Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Throwdown at the pizza parlor

Are you one of those people that goes looking for trouble? Are you the type of person that likes to start fights? Well, there appears to be a venue suited to your tastes: Chuck E. Cheese's:
It isn't clear exactly how often fights break out at Chuck E. Cheese's 538 locations. Richard Huston, executive vice president of marketing for the chain's parent company, CEC Entertainment Inc. of Irving, Texas, describes their occurrence as "atypical," saying he has heard of "four or five significant adult altercations" this year. But in some cities, law-enforcement officials say the number of disruptions at their local outlet is far higher than at nearby restaurants, and even many bars. "We've had some unfortunate and unusual altercations between adults at these locations," Mr. Huston says. "Even one is just way too many."

Fights among guests are an issue for all restaurants, but security experts say they pose a particular problem for Chuck E. Cheese's, since it is designed to be a haven for children. Law-enforcement officials say alcohol, loud noise, thick crowds and the high emotions of children's birthday parties make the restaurants more prone to disputes than other family entertainment venues.

The environment also brings out what security experts call the "mama-bear instinct." A Chuck E. Cheese's can take on some of the dynamics of the animal kingdom, where beasts rush to protect their young when they sense a threat.

This is probably the same psychological dynamic that causes parents to get into fights at their childrens' little league games or soccer matches. If somebody feels that their kid has been slighted or mistreated, their instinct is to rush to their child's aid, even if that means they have to become violent towards the parents of other children.

Of course, it might also have to do something with a portion of the clientele of this particular chain:

Police officers and company officials say alcohol isn't always a factor in altercations at Chuck E. Cheese's. Mr. Huston says the chain's "broad demographic appeal" means that it has restaurants in what he described as "tougher areas" where there is more potential for crime.
Yeah: when some of Chuck E. Cheese's restaurants, like the Milwaukee franchise mentioned in the article, has to post a sign at an entrance decreeing a dress code prohibiting "gang-style apparel," then that store probably isn't operating in a high-end neighborhood. I'm not saying that there's anything inherently wrong with Chuck E. Cheese's business model - that of an inexpensive, family-oriented food-and-entertainment chain - but the fact is that such a business model tends to attract customers who, for whatever reason, might be more prone to the antisocial behavior described in the article.

It's sad that kid-themed places like Chuck E. Cheese's have to be associated with bad behavior among grown-ups - what a great example these people are setting for their children, after all - but, sadly, such is the world we live in today. So my advice for those who take their children to parties at Chuck E. Cheese's is as follows: be prepared to have a good time amidst your child and his or her friends and their families.

But also have that right hook ready, just in case.

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