outside dave and buster's exterior sign

We know you were just dying to know. Yes, there is a Dave — and yes, there is a Buster. The two dabbled in the bar business for years before striking gold with what we now know of today as Dave & Buster’s. The massive entertainment complexes, which are a bar-restaurant-arcade sort of hybrid, have since become synonymous with a good time and decent food at a fair price — not to mention the drinks are usually flowing. They’ve found that success by tapping into a unique market that appeals to all our vices with D&B recipe combining the childhood whimsy found in the games we adore, combined with our adult past times of eating, throwing back some cocktails, and taking in the game with friends. If you have a zest for life and love an all-around good time, this is the place for you.

The history of Dave and Buster’s is full of enough twists and turn it could take up a mile-long redemption ticket in the process. Join us on this fun-filled journey as we learn more about the two guys that started it all, just how they earned themselves a coveted spot in the Guinness World Records book, and what makes their strawberry watermelon margaritas so darn delicious (hint: it’s in the strawberry-infused ice cubes). So, sit back, grab a supercharged cocktail and some pretzel dogs, and let’s dive into the untold truth of Dave & Buster’s.

It all started with two guys: Dave and Buster

appetizers food dve and buster's

The story of Dave and Buster’s begins with: Dave and Buster. (No, not Dave Chappelle and Busta Rhymes as TikTok would like for you to believe.) It all goes back to David Corriveau and James "Buster" Corley. It was the late 1970s and Corley owned and operated a bar called Buster’s in Little Rock, Arkansas. Just next door, Corriveau owned and operated a game parlor and saloon called Cash McCool’s. The two began to notice something funny. On any given night, patrons would bounce back and forth between the two establishments, seeking the elusive fun of gaming then heading back to knock a few cold ones down.

It was then that genius struck. What if they created a new destination establishment that combined the fun gaming elements from Cash McCool’s and the bar scene and food service of Buster’s? And so, the concept of Dave and Buster’s was officially born. Corley and Corriveau were officially in business together and would change the game literally of themed dining and entertainment forever.

The first Dave & Buster’s opened in Dallas, Texas

interior dave & buster's

The co-CEO’s packed up their lives in Arkansas and headed to the big city for what would be their first venture. They settled on Dallas, Texas, and the first Dave & Buster’s officially opened in 1982 bringing each of their respective expertise to the table at a soon-to-be bustling business. Corriveau handled the entertainment and gaming, while Corley stuck with what he knew which was food and beverage. It proved to be a match made in heaven and so the concept took off as a major success. According to The Daily Meal, the big wigs took notice and in 1989, the starring duo sold a majority stake in the company to Edison Brothers, a major St. Louis-based conglomerate. As part of the deal, the founders of Dave & Buster’s would remain on board creatively in addition to playing a role in the company’s future expansion plans. The good times were just getting going, and by 1997, the chain had 10 locations throughout the United States and would eventually go public.

Dave & Buster’s acquired a similar concept called Jillian’s

interior dave & buster's bar sports bar

In the late 1980s, there was really only one other concept that was similar to Dave and Buster’s and therefore its sole competitor. That was Jillian’s. Jillian’s began as a billiards club in Boston in the mid-1980s and would soon expand to a second location in Seattle just a few years later. Jillian’s was similar to Dave and Buster’s in the way that it included a restaurant and video game arcade, but this concept was a little broader, additionally housing bowling alleys, nightclubs, and even conference rooms. At the height of its success, it operated around 30 locations in the United States and Canada. For as quickly as Jillian’s grew, trouble was looming ahead for them.

The party was over and in 2004, Jillian’s Entertainment Holdings, Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy with the plans to sell all of its assets. Jillian’s trademark and nine of its locations were acquired by Dave and Buster’s. Eventually, some of the old Jillian’s locations were converted to Dave and Buster’s locations while a few were converted to Dave and Buster’s Grand Sports Café. While it doesn’t appear they are operating any locations under this name, the Grand Sports Café concept was trademarked in 2015 and featured billiards and bowling.

Dave & Buster’s went public to alleviate financial strain

gaming games dave and buster's interior

The cost to build a brand-new Dave and Buster’s location is a jaw-dropping, unfathomable, staggering number ‑- in the amount of $10 million cold hard cash to be exact. And that’s just the minimum cost to build out one of these gigantic complexes that at its smallest are 50,0000 square feet and to the upwards of 70,000 – like their Philadelphia location.

According to the Biz Journal, the company had many offers over the years to sell, but they turned them all down. Finally, in 2014, Dave and Buster’s made their debut on the Nasdaq as the company went public, with a ticket symbol aptly named, PLAY. At that time the company had 10,000 employees and used this opportunity as a means to move forward with growth, maintain staff, and likely pursue more expansions. The initial offering coughed up 5.88 million shares with the hopes of raising almost $100 million dollars.

The 1990s saw a rise in competition for Dave & Buster’s

dive restaurant cali steven spielberg themed dining

The 1990s were a glorious time. "Saturday Night Live" was at its peak, Michael Jordan proved he was the greatest ball player of all time, and we raced to the theaters, again and again, to see "Titanic." It was also a prime time to be in the entertainment dining category … and competition was fierce. As the masses dove deep into their fascinations with pop culture, themed restaurants popped up seemingly everywhere celebrating a multitude of hobbies and interests. Many of which with celebrity ties, there was the rise of Hard Rock Cafe, House of Blues, All Star Cafe, Planet Hollywood, and even a submarine-themed restaurant backed by Steven Spielberg that came to fruition.

We could speculate forever on why many of these themed dining establishments have gone to the wayside and just why Dave & Buster’s continues to strive, but we think it could very well come down to the food. While those other establishments relied mainly on food sales to drive profits (and let’s be honest, they are not serving up Michelin-quality cuisine), Dave & Buster’s revenue stream sees big profits from its gaming sector. Food may be a key element of the D&B experience, but from a business perspective, it’s only a small part of the success equation.

Dave & Buster’s expanded to the U.K.

groundbreaking new dave and buster's location

We all waited on bated breath for Y2K to come and reck havoc on us all. It didn’t. But for Dave & Buster’s, they were certainly taking a beating as they made their way towards the turn of the century with uncertainty … and a major earnings drop. The answer was coming and it just so happened to come from across the pond. According to ProQuest, Joseph Lewis, a billionaire and one of the richest people in the United Kingdom, was keen on expanding the brand to his homeland. They also got it at a steal and became part owners at just over 10% of Dave & Buster’s.

The United Kingdom Dave & Buster’s locations were operated by one of the largest hospitality companies of that time, Bass. It first opened up in the West Midlands before a second outpost opened in Bristol at the cost of 12 million pounds. Those were seemingly a success with more locations on the horizon. In 2000, Bass got out of their franchise agreement and quickly shuttered the two locations. Reddit users who seek fun with a side of fish and chips have taken to the internet to plea for a return of the chain, claiming there’s a much larger market for it now with beercades of that nature finding major success.

Dave & Buster’s replaced traditional tokens with the Power Card

power card gamed dave and buster's

As the times have changed, so has Dave & Buster’s — with those changes largely being necessary industry updates to keep up with the latest technology and trends. The games have to be relevant and the operations must be as well. Dave & Buster’s game activation methods have come a long way from traditional tokens to then card-swiping activation and eventually touch screen systems. While the Power Card, their game activation card that worked similarly to a debit card, came to be in the late 1990s, they decided to take it one step further in 2016, according to Insider.

Mimicking a similar concept that Walt Disney World had put into place with MagicBands, for Dave & Buster’s to keep up with the Joneses this meant the creation of the wearable Power Card. Just like Disney, the Power Card is a wearable RFID-enabled wristband, but instead of it granting access to a magical kingdom, this will keep you getting your game on all night.

Dave & Buster’s is marketing itself to the UFC fans with pay-per-view events

dave and busters tv sports games ufc

"Eat. Drink. Play." That’s the official motto and embodiment of the Dave & Buster’s experience. While the brand certainly draws a number of families to their establishments, they also have a heavy flow of foot traffic from the of-age group looking to get their fun on. A lot of times, this means taking in the game. Luckily, most of the Dave & Buster’s bars provide optimum sports viewing thanks to a number of large screen televisions.

As the official corporate sponsor of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Dave & Buster’s proves to be the ultimate viewing experience for any fan with matches being shown in screening rooms at every location. Instead of dropping big bucks on a pay-per-view event, fans can spend that money on endless fried foods and copious amounts of beer. Game, set, match. You know where you will find us for the next big event.

Dave & Buster’s hold a Guinness World Record

prizes ticket redemption center dave and busters

There are some pretty odd and downright bizarre Guinness World Record holders out there — like the longest fingernails or the record for the heaviest weight lifted by a human bear (yes, that exists). Few things are immune from dreaming up a Guinness World Record and Dave & Busters’s was certainly not left in the dust.

Up in Toronto, Canada our friendly neighbors of the North landed a Guinness World Record at Dave & Buster’s. In 2017, patron Joseph Levy Cohen achieved the record for the longest chain of redemption tickets with a whopping 360,000. We’ve all felt a little ego boost when we’ve struck it big on a round of Skee-Ball, but this one puts us all to shame. In the certification ceremony, the Guinness team strung the chain of tickets out for a staggeringly impressive length that measured 2,9134 feet. We’re still waiting on Cohen to reveal what prizes he picked with those impressive earnings.

Dave & Buster’s went virtual in 2015

dave and buster's app iphone game on games play

Smartphone games are nothing new as it is all too common nowadays to spy someone with their head buried in their device playing "Candy Crush" or "Fruit Ninja," as opposed to engaging in actual human interactions. No shame… we are guilty as well. In 2015, the mega-chain caught on to this trend and released a mobile app that would allow guests to play some of their favorite games from across Dave & Buster’s locations, but from the palms of their own hands. The cherry on top is that this free app actually yields real-life results in the form of tickets that users can redeem on their next D&B visit. Virtual tickets are able to be transferred easily and seamlessly directly to your Power Card.

According to the Nation’s Restaurant News, while these are quality games and not fluff meant solely for promotion, this app was created in an effort to keep the D&B brand out there in your thoughts when not physically visiting a location. The mobile app can also be used to join the Dave & Buster’s rewards program where frequent visitors can gain access to perks and exclusive offers. Where do we sign up?

Their food and drinks are actually quite good

drinks happy hour dave and buster's bar

We know we initially drew you in with talk of strawberry watermelon margaritas and strawberry-infused ice cubes. Well, here’s the thing. Unlike many of its competitors that came and went, the food and drinks at Dave & Buster’s are actually quite good, and pretty fairly priced. If you enjoy imbibing from time to time on some fruity libations, you’d know that Dave & Buster’s does a good job with continually refreshing their cocktail menu and switching things up with seasonal twists. If mixed drinks aren’t your thing, D&B also carries a pretty impressive beer selection for a chain, with over 20 varieties, including local selections. This is in addition to an expansive full bar. Pretty impressive.

The food menu is also expansive, offering everything from standard bar fares, like their signature bar burgers and wings, to actual entrees, like the bistro steak and shrimp with lobster alfredo. Munching your way through its menu may even leave you a little baffled … like one reporter for the Naples News who was so dumbfounded that the food was actually quite good. The more you know!

Dave & Buster’s managed to stay afloat during the pandemic

pandemic covid dave and busters masks

Much like they survived the riddled decade of the 1990s and themed restaurant boom, they, once again persevered and managed to survive the global pandemic of 2020/2021. Saying the pandemic was brutal to the restaurant industry would even be an understatement. It all about disseminated it leaving everyone from mom-and-pop shops to worldwide chains in the dust. Dave & Buster’s was burning on average around $3.5 million each week during the shutdown with the company relying on rent deferment and having to lay off staff to barely get by. While 2020 sales at the chain were abysmal thanks to nationwide closures, according to Fool.com, Dave & Buster’s has since recouped by fully recovering its lost sales and shares have bounced back around 60% since the onset of the pandemic.

This is extra impressive considering much of their income is based not on food sales, but on multiple parties coming together in a modern-day arcade full of high touch surfaces — a place that is not exactly a beckon of health and cleanliness. As people are gradually making their way out of the home and seeking carefree fun and amusement, the future seems promising for the long-time chain.