The Madison location of Dave & Buster’s is opening Monday at West Towne Mall, ahead of schedule, with 30,500 square feet of restaurant and bar space plus arcade games.
It's the second Dave & Buster’s in Wisconsin, and the 111th overall in North America.
Jim Schiavo, the Madison location's general manager, said the original opening date was scheduled for April 30. "We were so far ahead we moved it to April 9th," he said.
A month ago, he and other managers took over the old Apple Store space at West Towne as a Dave & Buster's hiring site. They interviewed more than 1,000 people to fill about 180 positions. Schiavo likened it to speed dating.
"We do a unique kind of interview," he said. Four managers sat across from four candidates, and each manager talked to each candidate for seven minutes. A timer went off, they hit a gong, and "everybody screamed 'switch' " and then the managers went on to interview the next candidate, Schiavo said.
The managers shared their notes, and the best candidates went on to a final interview with Schiavo or one of the assistant managers.
"It was a really neat experience," said Schiavo, who trained on the hiring method at a new Dave & Buster's in New Jersey. "It was a cool thing to do."
They created a festive atmosphere in the hiring space with banners, posters, a bean bag toss and music. "You'd have people walk by and there was a lot of excitement, a lot of energy," Schiavo said. "That was our home for a little over four weeks."
Schiavo describes Dave & Buster’s as the only place in Madison where "you can eat, drink, play and watch sports" at the same time.
The Dallas, Texas-based company Dave & Buster’s Entertainment Inc. (NASDAQ: PLAY), founded in 1982, tries to set itself apart in each of those areas.
"We have our chef-crafted menu, very creative and unique cocktails, including glow cones," Schiavo said, referencing the bar's adult snow cones. "Over 140 of the most unique video games and simulators you've ever seen, including the world's largest Pac-Man. You can ride a raft ride with motion."
Customers buy games by putting points on a card and can redeem their points or tickets for prizes that range from sticky hands to iPads, iWatches and GoPros, said Schiavo, who likens the restaurant's "WIN!" area, where customers claim their prizes, to a retail store.
In terms of watching sports, Dave & Buster's has more than 35 TVs, including two state-of-the-art laser projectors. "It's like nothing you've ever seen as far as the sports side of things," Schiavo said. "We subscribe to just about every sports package on DIRECTV, including MMA (mixed martial arts) fights."
Dave & Buster's tend to be located in bigger metropolitan areas, Schiavo said. There are five in the Chicago area, with many in Dallas, Atlanta, the northeast and California.
The Madison location is the company's second in Wisconsin. The first opened in Wauwatosa in March 2010.
The Madison restaurant is a smaller scale Dave & Buster's. Company spokeswoman Alex Purdy said locations vary from 30,000 to 45,000 square feet. "The company feels the size is right for Madison," Schiavo said. "It's really exciting to have a store of this size."
If Schiavo's name is familiar, it's because he ran Cafe Continental in Fitchburg from 2008 to 2012. More than 20 years ago, he worked for both the Chicago Dave & Buster's, and one in Addison, a northwest Chicago suburb just south of Schaumburg.
Before moving back to Madison, and after four years with Dave & Buster's, Schiavo worked as GM of ESPN Zone, a large Chicago sports bar, which has since closed.
More recently, Schiavo worked at Vitense Golfland, where he was head of beverage sales and worked as marketing manager. In his time there, he helped open Vitense's golf suites, similar to Top Golf. He also helped build a sports bar there and expanded Vitense's off-site catering.
From opening day until April 22 at Dave & Buster's, customers can play unlimited games of Rampage, Typhoon, Cruis’n, Dark Escape and Space Invaders Frenzy with the same-day purchase of a $10 "Power Card." Tickets or points from the games can then be redeemed for prizes.
The food menu boasts a buffalo wing burger and a triple bacon burger featuring three types of bacon. Other menu items include ancho Caesar lettuce wraps, a "carnivore Pizzadilla," and cheese-crusted street tacos.
The restaurant's hours will be Sunday through Thursday 11 a.m. to midnight, and Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.
The Madison Dave & Buster's, 414 West Towne Mall, was built into what was formerly part of the Sears store. The Sears store is still open and operating in a smaller footprint of about 50,000 square feet.
Total Wine is opening April 12 in another redeveloped portion of the building.