Dave  & Buster's customers watch sports on TV with drinks in their hands.
Dave & Buster's

Quarter-to-date sales total $228 million with two weeks remaining in the first quarter.

Dave & Buster’s Restaurant Fleet is Coming Back to Life

Same-store sales at fully operational stores are declining 19 percent. 

After a tumultuous 2020, Dave & Buster’s is starting to come back to life as 138 of its 141 stores have now reopened as of Saturday. 

That includes 11 New York units that reopened in March and 15 California units that reopened between mid-March and mid-April. It’s a significant improvement from the beginning of February when only 107 stores could open their doors. 

Though 98 percent of the footprint is open, most locations are still restricted in terms of capacity and operating hours. Seven stores can only serve food and beverages. Because of that, overall same-store sales are still down 38 percent compared to 2019. However, fully operational stores are seeing comps slide only 19 percent. It’s a 14-point improvement from February—a sign that customers are coming back to Dave & Buster’s when allowed. 

READ MORE: From sports betting to a new menu, the game is about to change at Dave & Buster's

Dave & Buster’s reported that in January, 85 restaurants representing about 80 percent of the brand’s reopened locations achieved positive store-level EBITDA—enabling Dave & Buster’s to post its first period of positive enterprise-level EBITDA since the shutdown of its entire store base roughly a year ago. The eatertainment chain followed that up with another positive enterprise-level EBITDA in February.

Quarter-to-date sales total $228 million with two weeks remaining in the first quarter. Based on these results, Dave & Buster’s expects Q1 sales to finish between $252 million and $257 million, which exceeds prior expectations of $210 million to $220 million. 

“We have been very pleased with our recently reopened stores in New York and California, which have produced some of our strongest early sales recoveries to date,” CEO Brian Jenkins said in a statement. “Their performance, in tandem with economic stimulus, expanding vaccines and a favorable Easter and spring break shift, has accelerated sales recovery trends across our entire store base.”

The pandemic has forced Dave & Buster’s to aggressively evolve, especially with its menu. COO Margo Manning said the chain is establishing a “stronger, differentiated food identity,” and that involves phased reduction of the menu, high-speed ovens, virtual concepts, and new kitchen management system upgrades. These changes will coincide with a “comprehensive internal and external marketing strategy” to fully inform customers about how Dave & Buster’s is adapting. 

Dave & Buster’s is also elevating the guest experience in the form of tablets and a mobile web platform to provide a contactless experience, and new games in the arcade, from a four-player cooperative Minecraft Dungeons Arcade offering to a new VR attraction and life-size version of Hungry Hungry Hippos. The chain is also exploring a sports betting partnership, an avenue that’s gained much traction as of late, including Buffalo Wild Wings and even the NFL.