Capital City Dave & Buster’s plays on millennials’ entertainment preferences

Dave & Buster's recently opened a new location in the Capital City Mall. - (Photo / Jason Scott)

On Oct. 22, a new Dave & Buster’s opened at the Capital City Mall in Lower Allen Township. General manager Robert Caldwell was on-hand to welcome the large crowd of eager visitors, many of whom were young adults.

“Dave & Buster’s is geared primarily toward pleasing young professionals,” said Caldwell. “Although we’re also great for kids, families and even seniors, the meal options, portion-sizing, pricing and types of games tend to appeal to a younger clientele.”

One such game is Jurassic World, a four-player virtual reality game where co-players can strategize together and even have their picture taken together. Caldwell finds that interactive, futuristic group games like these appeal to young adults.

Many young professionals in the millennial generation, as well as some Gen X-ers, “prioritize spending on multisensory experiences and events over product ownership,” according to a 2017 report by international consulting firm McKinsey&Company. “They prefer instant gratification from entertainment and are attracted to media, gaming, and experiences that are shared socially.”

Jason Scott

Caldwell agreed. “We’ve always been focused more on adults, but with the coming of age of the millennials, we found that this demographic, more than any other, has certain expectations,” he said. “They expect more excitement in their games and in their food and drink as well. We certainly haven’t taken away what has always made us great for adults of all ages, but we’ve added things that are uniquely young adult, like our version of avocado toast.”

Caldwell said the shift toward tailoring experiences to young professionals has happened gradually. “Each new Dave & Buster’s is more vibrant than the last. The decor, the colors, the lights – everything is very vibrant compared to the more polished look that we used to create,” he said.

With that young professional clientele in mind, Caldwell said that Dave & Buster’s marketing strategy relies heavily on the use of social media to drive traffic to its website and bring people through the doors. The official Dave & Buster’s Facebook page has over 660,000 followers, while its Instagram page has more than 52,000 followers.

“We boosted posts on Facebook, which helped drive great traffic to the Camp Hill location for the opening,” added Caldwell. Boosting a Facebook post involves paying for a post to reach a wider audience.

On weekend nights when Dave & Buster’s is open until 1 a.m., anyone under the age of 21 must leave by 11 p.m., another strategy to entice young adult customers and create a nightlife atmosphere. Caldwell also encouraged young professionals in the region to take advantage of Half Price Wednesdays, where all games are half-price. The location also offers happy hour specials every weekday and Eat & Play combos on some other nights, where patrons can pay a flat price for select options of unlimited food and unlimited video games. Unlimited wings and games, for example, is $19.99.

The Capital City Mall Dave & Buster’s joins four others in Pennsylvania, including one near downtown Pittsburgh and three in the greater Philadelphia region.

“Pennsylvania has been great for Dave & Buster’s,” Caldwell said. “We chose the Capital City Mall for its great parking and easy access to multiple cities like York, Lancaster, and Hershey. Being located in a mall is the ideal situation for us because many are looking for anchor tenants and have ample parking; we’re doing more and more of that. The Camp Hill store is part of a larger expansion plan across the country, with 14 units under construction now, with even more planned for next year.”

Mall vacancy rates were the highest in the first half of 2018 as they have been since the end of 2012, Forbes Magazine reported in April. In a report from consulting firm AT Kearney titled The Future of Shopping Centers, the authors note that the future looks positive for malls that re-engineer into “consumer engagement spaces,” where needs and interests of one or more segments of the population inform design. Dave & Buster’s and similar brands can be a draw for young professionals who may then stay to shop in the mall’s stores, and vice versa.

Dave & Buster’s is located near another arcade-style entertainment center, The Coliseum. The Coliseum has over 100 arcade games, a billiards room, and bowling alley, along with a full service restaurant and bar and space for professional and social events.

And unlike kid-centric entertainment spots like Chuck E. Cheese’s, “At Dave & Buster’s, parents can have as great a time as their kids,” said Caldwell. “The variety of games for different ages, as well as the many multiplayer games, allows them to play together.”

Dave & Buster’s at the Capital City Mall is open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. -11 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. – 1 a.m.

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