Atari founder to start new media bistro chain

Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari and creator of the Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurant chain, is at it again: This time with the new uWink Media Bistro, expected to open this fall in Los Angeles. Bushnell hopes to expand the chain across the country, should the first one prove to be a success.

Think of uWink Media Bistros as the next logical step for the Chuck E. Cheese’s generation: A casual dining experience centered around interactive gaming. Patrons sit at dinner tables equipped with touch-screen consoles where they can order beverages and food, play video games, surf the Web, play music and watch videos.

The screens will be two-sided, so couples will be able to play against each other. Interactive sports, poker and trivia games enable patrons to compete with others at the restaurant, too — including party tables that seat six patrons at a time.

There won’t be any waitrons at uWink Media Bistros, according to Bushnell, though there will be employees who will bring you your food and cocktails. There will also be “Tour Directors” on hand to give uWink newbies an idea of what games to play and how to use the interfaces.

Bushnell describes the concept of uWink as reversing the isolation that many video games create. “We want to shift back to a time when people played games to build relationships,” he said.

Bushnell is hoping uWink bistros will attract “young, media-savvy adults” in their early 20’s and 30’s — the same folks who grew up going to Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurants.

uWink is the outgrowth of another venture Bushnell started back in 2000. The company initially designed video game consoles that went into bars and restaurants — more than 2,500 of them have been installed worldwide. After losing a bidding war with Sega over the GameWorks restaurant franchise, Bushnell decided to do it himself.

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