Applebee's Joins Chuck E. Cheese's In Posing-As-A-Small-Local-Business Scam [Updated]

Update, May 20, 2020: Now Applebee's is getting in on the restaurant-in-disguise action! Under the name Neighborhood Wings, the chain has been offering, via Grubhub, a much-truncated version of its regular menu for delivery. That means only the fried foods: wings, chicken tenders, fries, mozzarella sticks, etc. Oh, and also pretzels and mac and cheese.

"At Applebee's restaurants, wings are a top selling menu item," Scott Gladstone, Applebee's VP of strategy and development told Today when he was confronted with evidence of the deception. "We launched Neighborhood Wings by Applebee's on GrubHub to make it even easier for guests to get their wings fix and to give us the opportunity to test out new items made for wing lovers that aren't on our main menu."

This is confusing to me because Applebee's does, indeed, appear to serve everything that's on the Neighborhood Wings menu, but maybe Gladstone just means that through Neighborhood Wings you can order greater quantities of wings than you can at Applebee's. (Sixty, to be exact.)

Anyway, if you look closely enough at the Grubhub page, you'll notice that the header does say "by Applebee's." So there's that.

Original post, May 18, 2020: As a mother of two, I feel confident in saying that zero percent of the American population have ever gone to Chuck E. Cheese solely for the pizza. The only reason you ever eat pizza at Chuck E. Cheese is because you're there to wear out your kids and have no other sustenance options, and while the pizza is not terrible, it's not good. It tastes like a frozen pizza you'd buy at the supermarket. Has it ever been anyone's first choice for pickup or delivery? Probably not, and Chuck E. Cheese knows that, too. But now that the pandemic has torpedoed its business model of operating a children's casino where every conceivable surface is covered in microorganisms, pizza is the only thing Chuck E. Cheese has left. And it has decided that the best way forward is to lie about it.

The deception was first exposed last month on Reddit, when a user posted a text message exchange with their Grubhub delivery person after noticing the pizza they had ordered from Pasqually's Pizza & Wings—which the customer believed to be an independent local business—tasted suspiciously like pizza that would never be served by an independent local business. "Just curious," they texted the delivery driver, "was this food from Chuck E. Cheese?" The driver replied that it was indeed picked up at a local Chuck E. Cheese, but one whose windows had signs saying that it was Pasqually's. The Reddit user's husband then put two and two together: in the Chuck E. Cheese character universe, there is an Italian chef by the name of Pasqually P. Pieplate who not only makes pizza but also plays drums in the establishment's house band. Not only that, but according to Chuck E. Cheese lore, Pasqually was the brains behind the whole operation in the first place! His official bio disappeared from the Chuck E. Cheese website last year when the company decided to distance itself from the animatronic nightmare fuel that generations of children knew and feared. Fortunately for this story, nothing on the internet truly disappears. Behold, the official biography of Pasqually:

Pasqually originates from Naples, Italy. Shortly after birth, his parents, Priscilla and Pietro, immigrated to America, where they opened "Pasqually's Pizza", which they named after him.

Growing up, Pasqually isolated himself from sports and other activities to study the art of pizza making, hoping to one day inherit his parents' store. He also taught his younger sister, Paola, everything he learned about pizza, and adapted his family's pizza recipe into song, accompanied by drums comprised of pots and pans.

After his parents retired and settled in Florida, Pasqually gained full control of their restaurant. Determined to not only attract customers through pizza, but also through entertainment, he performed live stand-up comedy, recruited his nephew, Gino, to help make pizzas, and added arcade games as a mainstay. However, his plan backfired due to the negative reception of his jokes. Faced with a slow decline of customers, Pasqually intended to close the restuarant, but a surprise encounter with a singing mouse began to draw in more customers, prompting Pasqually to rename his restaurant "Chuck E. Cheese's" after his new star, and he and Chuck E. Cheese have remained friends since.

So is this new restaurant, Pasqually's, really just an attempt by Chuck E. Cheese to return to its fictional roots? Food & Wine launched an investigation to get to the bottom of the Grubhub mystery.

"CEC Entertainment, Inc. recently launched Pasqually's Pizza & Wings nationwide," a Chuck E. Cheese spokesperson told Food & Wine via email. "Pasqually's Pizza & Wings, named after another favorite member of Munch's Make Believe Band, shares kitchen space with the Chuck E. Cheese restaurant, ensuring high-quality, fresh ingredients. Pasqually's Pizza & Wings' recipes use fresh, homemade pizza dough, just like Chuck E. Cheese, but it is a different pizza that features a thicker crust and extra sauce, giving consumers a more flavorful, more premium pizza experience. While Pasqually's Pizza & Wings recipes are currently only available for delivery, select items might be added to the Chuck E. Cheese menu in the future."

You've got to hand it to Chuck E. Cheese: it knows what it has to do to survive.