The brand will allow customers to place wagers on arcade games in real time.

While the idea of gambling joining the physical restaurant space isn’t new, although it remains mostly elusive, Dave & Buster’s is taking a different spin. Lucra, a tech provider of gamification services, announced in a release Tuesday it’s partnering with the eatertainment giant to “provide customers with a fully immersive experience at venues nationwide.”

The partnership will integrate Lucra’s gamification software into Dave & Buster’s app. Loyalty members will then be able to digitally compete with each other, earn rewards, and unlock perks. Notably, though, this partnership centers on an option to bet against other players. So customers 18 and older (why loyalty sign-up is part of the process) are going to be able to place live bets with other guests on arcade games. Unlike more general gambling services, it’s giving guests a chance to bet against each other rather the company behind it, such as DraftKings, etc.

The feature is expected to launch in the coming months.

“We’re thrilled to work with Lucra to bring this exciting new gaming platform to our customers,” Simon Murray, SVP of Entertainment and Attractions at Dave and Buster’s, said in a statement. “This new partnership gives our loyalty members real-time, unrivaled gaming experiences, and reinforces our commitment to continuing to elevate our customer experience through innovative, cutting-edge technology.”

Lucra said it’s approach “will help to destigmatize cash-based competition by evolving it into a fun, friendly, and social experience.”

MORE: Inside Dave & Buster’s Mission to Find, Engage, and Bring Guests Back for More

The organization ran a direct-to-consumer company for several years, the release said, growing to 150,000 customers, a million real-money contests, and $20 million-plus of handle. Lucra said it realized there was opportunity if it embedded gamification tech directly into existing communities and established platforms, like Dave & Buster’s.

There are two products that can natively integrate into third-party platforms in as fast as two weeks. Lucra handles 90 percent of the implementation and 100 percent of the risk management, it said.

A Lucra rep told NBC there will be a limit on bets at Dave & Buster’s, but added the limit was not something it could reveal publicly. It noted the average bet between users was $10.

It also shared it has “extensive responsible gaming policies” and partners can configure bet limits. Lucra said it’s skills-based games are not subject to the same licenses and regulations gambling operators face with games of chance. As NBC reported, it doesn’t use the term “bet” or “wager” to describe options. Instead, it’s “real-money contests” or “challenges.” Lucra has contests currently in 44 states.

The company is backed by SeventySix Capital, Raptor Group, Visible Ventures, AMBSE Ventures), and a slew of team owners and athletes (Marc Lasry, Dennis Wong, John Isner, Zach/Julie Ertz, Emmanuel Sanders, Khris Middleton, and more) and advised by the ex-WNBA commissioner (Donna Orender); Major League Pickleball founder (Steve Kuhn); Stanford GSB professor (Jonathan Levav); and Hollywood legend amd The Last Dance Executive Producer (Mike Tollin).

The news represents the latest engagement for Dave & Buster’s in what’s been a busy stretch. The brand said in April it was beginning to tinker with pricing as it worked to match markets dynamically. CEO Chris Morris, who came over with the Main Event deal in 2022, said the brand was significantly discounted compared to competitors, sometimes as much as 40–80 percent lower. Power Card prices hadn’t increased in two decades and game prices were the same nationwide.

In turn, it began testing absolute price adjustments and regional differentiations. The price hikes are expected to boost entertainment sales in fiscal 2024, which mixes 65 percent and delivers over 90 percent gross margins. Read more on the effort here.

Additionally, Dave & Buster’s is overhauling its menu through a phased approach. The first phase involved hiring a new head of F&B and evaluating the entire menu structure. The second step was removing complexity and ramping up speed of service, which launched September 25. Phase 3 aims to introduce culinary innovation around appetizers, bowls, desserts, and sides. That was launched at about one-third of venues in late March. It will reach the remainder of the system on April 15.

The chain is hoping phase 3 will bring at least a mid-single digit increase in F&B revenue per check, a material improvement in COGS, and a 3 to 5 point lift in food satisfaction scores. Morris emphasized that the rise in revenue per check is not driven by price, but by a favorable mix shift.

A “Store of the Future” was unveiled in January as well. First launched in Friendswood, Texas, last year, the “format is scheduled to roll out to select Dave & Buster’s locations across the country in 2024. That restaurant a saw a double-digit sales uplift compared to the prior year and a more than 30 percent sales uplift versus 2019. After more than 30 weeks, the venue is still performing at these levels, the company shared in Q4. In recent months, the chain finished eight more test remodels. These trials were chosen to represent a diverse range of stores, taking into account factors such as location, historical performance, age, and layout. Specific product offerings were also customized for each test location. On average, the stores involved in these tests have shown a 9 percent improvement in performance compared to the rest of the system through March.

Dave & Buster’s will have 40 to 45 remodeled stores in total by the end of 2024.

The brand’s same-store sales slid 7 percent in Q4 year-over-year following a Q4 2022 that had a 14.1 percent comp to 2019 and an over 25 percent comp in the final four weeks of the quarter thanks to robust consumer spending.

There are currently 223 stores nationwide, inclusive of Main Event. In 2023, 16 new stores debuted—11 Dave & Buster’s and five Main Events.

Chain Restaurants, Consumer Trends, Feature, Technology, Dave & Buster's