By Douglas Karlson
Visitors to the Cape Cod Mall are likely to stop in their tracks and say “Wow!” when they happen upon an innovative new collaboration that’s both meeting demand for family entertainment and redefining the traditional mall anchor.
That collaboration is Ten Pin Eatery, a 25,000-square-foot joint venture between Ryan Family Amusements and Chapin’s Restaurant. Part restaurant, part bar, part bowling alley and game room, Ten Pin Eatery serves multiple functions – and multiple audiences.
The new business, which opened April 23, is spacious and contemporary, and so far is drawing rave reviews from a wide range of patrons, from young children at birthday parties, teens in search of laser tag, twenty-somethings looking for a date night with bowling, adults who enjoy good dining and a bar while watching sports on the more than 20 flat screen TVs, and corporate clients booked at Ten Pin’s VIP room.
Located near Men’s Wearhouse, Ten Pin Eatery occupies multiple retail spaces that were once home to Payless Shoes, Rue 21, and several other retailers.
Upscale and hip, Ten Pin offers a white marble 45-seat bar, a restaurant, a party area near bowling lanes, and an arcade with more than 50 games, which Connie Clark, Ten Pin’s director of sales, says is popular with both children and adults, many of whom are attracted to vintage games such as Pac Man and Space Invaders.
There’s also a laser tag room that’s a hit with parties. Trevor Cunningham, Ryan’s general manager, describes the theme of the room, which has flashing lights and multiple levels, as “urban terrorism with a Cape Cod feel.” It’s the only indoor laser tag room on the Cape, and is popular for both birthday parties and corporate events.
“The arcade is a huge revenue source for us,” says Clark. “The laser tag’s been really popular.”
The restaurant is decorated with local art, including elaborate cut-metal sculpture murals and a chandelier depicting schools of fish by Cape Cod artist Steve Swain, as well as scenic photos by local photographers and locally made glass bowling pin lamps. The parquet floor in the dining room was made with repurposed woods from old bowling lanes.
“We’re taking it up a notch with our menu,” says Jimmy Mullen, a partner at Chapin’s Restaurant Group. That menu includes chicken wings and fried calamari, lobster salad and pizza. Sandwiches range from Boston cheesesteak to toasted focaccia Italian sausage. Dinner entrees include “Ten Pin Cod,” which is cod topped with tomato basil sauce and mozzarella cheese, fish and chips lobster pot pie, and charbroiled steak tips. Hamburgers are pressed at the Dennis Public Market. And of course, there’s also a kid’s menu.
“I think it really surprises people when they walk in,” says Mullen. “We wanted people to say ‘Holy cow, this is way more than I expected.’” So far, he says, “We’re exceeding their expectations all the time.”
According to Rob Nichols, president at Ryan Family Amusements, Ten Pin Eatery was about two years in the making. Ryan Family Amusements already had a game room at the Cape Cod Mall when the mall’s leasing agent met with Ryan’s to extend the company’s game room lease. The agent offered a new space of about 12,000 square feet. That was too big for a game room, and not big enough for a boutique bowling alley and restaurant. For that, says Nichols, at least 25,000 square feet was needed.
At the same time, recalls Nichols, the company’s health insurance broker, Seamus O’Hara who is also a partner at Chapin’s, suggested that Ryan Amusements and Chapin’s Restaurant become partners. As regulars at the popular Dennis eatery, Nichols and the team at Ryan Family Amusements jumped at the idea.
“That’s how the whole thing came about. He was the first one who mentioned Chapin’s to us, and we love Chapin’s, all of the partners at Ryan Family Amusements go there all the time. We thought that would be a great partnership, and it just worked out.”
For Chapin’s, says Mullen, “the decision was an easy one since Cape Cod Mall is the only mall on the Cape.”
By combining what they each do best: food, drinks, and entertainment, with the added customer traffic from the mall, the two businesses predicted that the net effect would be increased business for both.
For Mullen, the joint venture was all about synergy with Ryan’s. “We want the one-stop shop,” he explains. “You come here and you’re guaranteed a really good time and a lot of fun.”
Nichols described the new venture as a seamless partnership between the two companies. He notes that Ryan Amusements has expertise in gaming, but isn’t in the food service business. The 300-seat restaurant and bar and game rooms are run as separate businesses, but share common overhead.
After many meetings with the leasing agent, details were worked out. To create a larger space, several existing retail tenants, Victoria’s Secret, Bath and Body Works, and Finish Line, were relocated to other spaces within the mall. That worked out well for everybody, says Nichols, because the stores moved to a higher traffic retail area in the mall.
The old game room at the mall is being converted into an escape room and virtual reality gaming room. Escape rooms are team-building challenges where players follow clues to escape from one room to the next.
Another challenge was accommodating Ten Pin’s hours, which are different from the mall’s.
“We couldn’t be limited by mall hours,” Nichols explains, so the restaurant needed its own exterior entrance.
“We can stay open until midnight, in the summer until 1 a.m. That’s one of the stigmas we’re fighting, the mall closes at 9,” says Mullen.
The solution was to adjust the hours of the mall entrance located near Men’s Wearhouse, and use an accordion wall to prevent access to the rest of the mall. The mall also set aside two parking spaces that are reserved for curbside meal pick-ups.
All total, Ten Pin Eatery required an investment of about $3 million.
For both Ryan’s and Chapin’s, the new venture is all about families. “Because of the restaurant and bar, we’re really hitting a wide range,” explains Nichols.
Ryan is now reaching a target market they don’t generally see at their other locations: young adults. He says they’re attracting them with the hip and stylish interior, and the restaurant and bar. While liquor is served at the South Yarmouth bowling alley, it doesn’t lend itself as place for the over-21 crowd to spend an evening.
“The other bowling lanes attracted teenagers, but not the over-21 crowd,” observes Nichols. “Ten Pin eatery hits all ages.”
The demographic ages as the evening progresses. While children and families are there during the day, with the evening come young adults, attracted in part by the live entertainment.
Every evening there’s live music – mostly local. Recent performers include singer-songwriter Terry Brennan, a regular, as well as the Grab Brothers. Upcoming performances include Funktapuss and the Old Valley Jazz Band.
Nichols says he expects to be very busy once the New England Patriots begin their season. He also anticipates large crowds once the holiday shopping season hits the mall.
“We’re looking forward to the fall and winter seasons to be very busy for us,” he says.
There also a VIP room for corporate events with its own bowling lanes and bar. While the standard package is for a two-hour minimum, Connie Clark, director of sales, says it’s unusual for clients not to extend their stays.
“They’re having so much fun.”
So far, corporate clients using the VIP room include medical offices, construction companies, landscaping companies, auto dealers, and more. Ten Pin Eatery does all the planning and preparation and creates custom menus for corporate events.
Parties are a collaborative effort. Ryan’s plays party host, and Chapin’s provides the food and beverages.
“Every party’s different, but we’re able to pull that off,” says Mullen.
In addition to corporate events, children’s birthday parties are a major component of the new business. Various packages are available, and range from $220 to $295. For that, children get two hours to eat cake, open gifts, play in the game room or laser tag room, and bowl, depending on the package.
Ten Pin Eatery reflects how malls across the country are changing in order to adjust to a new retail landscape. While traditional stores like Sears and Macy’s struggle, businesses like Ten Pin Eatery are now becoming the new anchors at malls.
“You see it all over the country, malls are changing their philosophy, and they need to offer family entertainment rather than just retail shopping. Mom wants to go shopping, kids want to play games and go bowling, and dad wants a beer,” says Nichols.
Malls are transitioning into lifestyle centers, with offerings like gyms and restaurants,” observes Cunningham, who notes than in the working out the details for Ten Pin Eatery, the mall management was “great to work with.”
“Customers say it’s perfect for when adults want to watch the game and the kids can play,” adds Clark.
“Ten Pin Eatery serves the whole family, and that, essentially, is our customer, the family,” agrees Mullen
In addition to helping to attract customers to the Cape Cod Mall, the new enterprise has had a positive impact on the local economy in terms of adding year-round jobs. Ryan’s hired 30 to 35 employees, and Chapin’s has hired 80 new staff.
Ten Pin Eatery recently launched an advertising campaign, mostly on radio and social media. “We’re getting really aggressive on radio,” says Mullen. The business held off on advertising until all the bugs were worked out, but they wanted to start advertising heavily once school ended.
To grow their clientele, they’re also investing heavily in outside sales, visiting local businesses to make them aware of Ten Pin Eatery as a site for corporate events. For that, says Clark, hitting the pavement and meeting face to face is key. She uses mystery gift cards to attract new clients. She believes in getting in front of people. So far, she says, corporate events are also generating strong word of mouth referrals.
Some customers have been known to stay for as long as eight hours. “You can spend the day here,” says Clark. As a family entertainment destination, she adds, “it’s a win/win.”