A new house for the mouse: Chuck E. Cheese to open in Kennewick

A new design for Chuck E. Cheese’s will roll out in the Tri-Cities next fall when the Richland restaurant reopens in a new location and a new city.

Construction is underway at 6340 W. Rio Grande Ave. near North Kellogg Street in Kennewick, about a block south of the McDonald’s that faces West Canal Drive.

Owners John and Kathleen Corbin currently have a permit to clear the lot, but are waiting on building permits from the city of Kennewick to move forward with construction of a new $2 million restaurant.

“My goal is to be in business in Kennewick in 2018. All my hopes and aspirations are pointed in that direction – along with all my cash,” joked John Corbin.

The Richland restaurant known for its pizza parties and kids’ games has been in the same spot at 2610 N. Columbia Center Blvd. since it opened in 1982, not long after the company was founded in 1977.

“We’ve done well where we’re at, and I think the new location’s better,” John Corbin said.

The Richland restaurant is expected to close in September 2018. There will be a break in operations while equipment is moved, with the new Kennewick restaurant opening in October.

Equipment that won’t be making the trip will include the eatery’s famous animatronic mouse crew.

The new Kennewick Chuck E. Cheese will incorporate many of the design elements featured in this corporate-owned restaurant. (Courtesy Chuck E. Cheese)

The new Kennewick Chuck E. Cheese will incorporate many of the design elements featured in this corporate-owned restaurant. (Courtesy Chuck E. Cheese)

The national chain announced this summer that it was replacing the robot band with a dance floor at its new locations.

This will be the case in Kennewick where the Chuck E. Cheese mascot will make an appearance on the dance floor to visit with guests, especially during birthday parties. This design is already in place in some locations nationwide.

“It’s going well in other parts of the country, so we will bring the latest and greatest of everything to Kennewick,” John Corbin said. The familiar red and purple colors used throughout the restaurant will also be replaced by more muted tones, including a green exterior.

The design is so current, the Corbins had to change building plans once the new model was unveiled in Texas in October.

“I like the design. I think it’s beautiful,” John Corbin said.

The new building will be slightly larger than the current location, but will have a different configuration.

There will be more floor space with a smaller, open kitchen so customers can see the pizzas being made. There’s also been a national emphasis on updating the menu.

“We think the food is continually improving, with quite a few new menu items offered. I think we are serving a great product. Everything is fresh,” John Corbin said. This includes expanded pizza options like a cali alfredo and barbecue chicken, as well as ciabatta sandwiches and wraps.

Additionally, the new Chuck E. Cheese will include “the most updated games and equipment” along with more games than currently available in Richland. John Corbin expects to offer new ride-on toys for the toddler set as well.

The restaurant will undergo a slight name change when it reopens, from Chuck E. Cheese’s to simply Chuck E. Cheese.

John Corbin said he and his wife are in the process of obtaining a Small Business Administration loan for the new restaurant project.

Despite owning Chuck E. Cheese since 1982, it wasn’t their first foray as franchise restaurant owners.

“I brought Wendy’s hamburgers to the Tri-Cities,” John Corbin said. The first Wendy’s location is the one still in operation on West Clearwater Avenue.

The Corbins also built the restaurants on George Washington Way in Richland and West Court Street in Pasco. Once operating 12 Wendy’s franchises across Washington and Oregon, the couple sold the stores in 1985.

A franchise of CEC Entertainment, the Richland’s Chuck E. Cheese is one of 607 nationwide.

The company’s most recent third quarter financial statement included a $14.8 million revenue decrease year over year, with a $11.1 million net loss for the third quarter, blamed on a decline in company-operated venue sales and losses of property and inventory due to late summer hurricanes. Total revenue for CEC Entertainment for the third quarter was $213.3 million.

John Corbin is optimistic he will need to add new employees when the new restaurant opens next fall.

“I’m real excited for the future prospects. We’ve always tried to put money back into the business. It’s been our life’s work when you come right down to it,’ he said.

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