Nolan Bushnell created Atari and Chuck E. Cheese, but the L.A. entrepreneur’s third act didn’t have the same staying power.
Bushnell’s much ballyhooed uWink restaurant chain allowed diners to order hamburgers, buffalo wings and French fries from touch-screen computers built into the tables and then play games on the computers. The last location in the Hollywood & Highland entertainment complex was shuttered last month.
UWink’s two other establishments, in the Westfield Promenade in Woodland Hills and the Northern California city of Mountain View, had closed in January of this year and April of last year, respectively. The Van Nuys company will keep selling its proprietary technology – the touch-screen computers and coinciding software – to other restaurant operators.
The Business Journal was unable to reach Bushnell or a representative from uWink for comment, but the closing was announced on the company’s website.
What went wrong?
UWink’s troubles began in 2008, when the company opened its Hollywood and Mountain View eateries, even as sales at the original Woodland Hills location declined by about 30 percent compared with the previous year. UWink then deregistered its stock to save money and focus on business activities.
Alan Liddle, a managing editor at New York trade publication Nation’s Restaurant News, said uWink had trouble because it had to split its efforts: selling technology and trying to run restaurants. Finally, the downturn did it in.
“They had to go into survival mode and just couldn’t wait it out,” Liddle said. “The timing wasn’t very good on a number of fronts.”
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