In 1977, Atari founder Nolan Bushnell had a dream: gambling but for children. He envisioned an America dotted with pizza restaurants where waiting patrons could pass the time playing arcade games as the swells of a Country Bears Jamboreeâlike animatronic show decidedly overstimulated them. He opened the Chuck E. Cheese first location that year and soon partnered up with hotelier Robert Brock to spread the cheese nationwide.
Just as Brock was preparing to open his first franchise location, however, he heard about a guy at a trade show hocking singing robots that put Bushnell's to shame. Brock was pretty pissed because Bushnell had told him they were the only rock and roll rat operation outside of Disney, and it later turned out that Bushnell was so aware of Aaron Fechter's Creative Engineering, Inc. that he'd tried to buy it. Brock demanded to be let out of his contract with Bushnell, Bushnell refused, and Brock jumped ship anyway to develop ShowBiz Pizza with Fechter. If you remember the nostalgic days of ShowBiz Pizza, you know it was basically Chuck E. Cheese with a weirdly better show.
Bushnell wasn't pleased and sued his former partner, eventually agreeing to drop the suit in exchange for a percentage of ShowBiz Pizza's profits.
Then the video game crash of 1983 happened. Chuck E. Cheese's revenue plummeted, forcing Bushnell to declare bankruptcy ... until a devil investor swooped in to save the day. That's right: It was Brock, whose diversified portfolio presumably left him in a financially takeovery position and who apparently couldn't wait to cash in on his old rival's humiliation. He then merged the companies and rebranded all the ShowBiz Pizzas as Chuck E. Cheeses. He kidnapped Bushnell's baby, threw it into a pit with several superior baby clones, and then merged all of the babies until Bushnell could no longer tell which was his. Okay, it's not a perfect metaphor, but it is the Game of Thrones of third-rate pizza.
Top image: Chuck E. Cheese, Eteixido/Wikimedia Commons