Rest In Peace
A Buyer’s Guide for Challenging Times
By George McAuliffe, President, Pinnacle Entertainment Group
I can’t imagine there are more than a very few owners or operators in our arcade and family entertainment industry who haven’t visited a Dave & Buster’s to see what they could learn. I remember walking into my first D&B in 1987 or so. The innovative combination of restaurant, bar and upscale arcade was one thing. But the execution –– at those volume levels –– was the part that was most awe-inspiring to me.
Buster Corley passed away far too soon in January, following his business partner Dave Corriveau who left us in 2015. Dave and Buster touched –– and taught –– so many of us who operated and entertained well over a hundred million guests in the 40+ year history of the company they started.
I was fortunate to be friends with Dave for many years, met Buster several times, and became friendly with many of their management team who worked with them. With Buster’s passing, I asked for comments from several of them:
Andy Newman is the former chairman and CEO of Edison Brother Stores, which owned D&B from 1989 until 1995. He was chairman of D&B after Edison spun off the business to become an independent public company:
“From the moment we acquired 80% of Dave & Buster’s in 1989, I really enjoyed working with them. Buster was the consummate ‘people person,’ a great, compassionate leader. Dave was a unique personality, and each brought creative energy to the business, never compromising the level of customer experience. They were a dynamic pair of outstanding pioneers in their field.”
Cory Haynes and Mike Plunkett were both lifelong friends and business colleagues of both Dave and Buster and key players who served in senior roles at D&B from the beginning and for many years. Today, Cory is the president and founder of Amusement Source International while Mike is the owner of JMP Consulting.
“In 1982, Dave and Buster had the vision to introduce video game play, billiards and shuffleboard, along with food and beverage, to adults in a Vegas-style setting. They basically took billiards out of the pool hall, video games out of the arcade, and created a setting where guest service was the most important element: ‘Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.’
“We had the pleasure of working with Dave and Buster for a combined 60-plus years. The most consistent operating principles were ‘Attention to Detail’ and ‘Everybody is Somebody.’ It wasn’t just a saying, it was – and still is – a way of life. Both Dave and Buster had an enormous impact on our lives and thousands of others. We were friends longer than working partners. We will miss and remember them forever.”
Reggie Moultrie was the vice president of amusements for Dave and Busters from 1997-2003. Today, he is president and CEO of Moute Point Inc. in Olathe, Kansas.
“Dave and Buster hired me into the company at a private dinner held at an exclusive restaurant in New York. I had known Dave for years, but Buster was only an acquaintance at the time of the dinner.
I was living in Pennsylvania, working as VP of Sales for Skee-Ball, so I drove to New York and met them at the restaurant. Buster was very patient, asked a ton of questions, and then looked at Dave and said, ‘I think we should make Reggie an offer.’ That changed my life!
“Buster was a passionate and very wise individual who loved our business and the D&B team. He always emphasized to me that the team was more important than the revenue. I was shocked at the news of his passing. I loved the man, and my prayers go out to his wife Leacy and his daughter Kate.”
Keitha McBride started working at D&B #2, the Walnut Hill location, in Dallas in 1989 as a server. She grew with the company, left briefly and with the encouragement of Cory Haynes, returned to the company as merchandise buyer in 1996. Today, Keitha is a senior executive at PIA Products, based in Dallas.
“I have always said how grateful I am to have worked for such a family-oriented business. I met both Dave and Buster soon after starting in 1989. I knew I had landed somewhere very special.
“Buster was a true mentor and he had high expectations for all his team members. You were expected to know the menu and it was nerve-racking when they sat at Grand Bar for lunch, but it was FUN! You performed because you wanted them to see you as an All-Star! Today, I wouldn’t be doing what I love without both Dave and Buster. I’m so grateful for the two men who were true trailblazers, true entrepreneurs, and a team, quite the duo! EVERYTHING about this company was driven by family. We are still a family!”
Pete Stearns began his career at Time-Out and moved to D&B in 1995. He has risen through the ranks at the company and today is the senior director of midway operations.
“Back in 1995, this man changed my life…forever. Buster was passionate about everything and everyone …from top to bottom. It didn’t matter who you were or what you did. He was interested in listening. The first day I met Buster was at my interview with D&B. I didn’t even know who he was. He sat down and struck up a conversation with me. He talked with me for 10 minutes in what was the easiest conversation I have probably ever had with a complete stranger. He stood up, shook my hand and said ‘Good luck with your interview.’ Mind you, I still didn’t know who he was (because that wasn’t important to him). Two minutes later, the gentleman who I was there to meet came over and asked, ‘So, what did you think of Buster?’
“He gave away his time, no matter how busy he was. This man took a chance on me as a young guy looking for a new home. I am forever indebted to Buster (he would never agree to this statement). The world has lost a kind, outstanding human being. I wish each and every one of you could have met Buster because he would have made time for you.”
Chris Morris is the current CEO of Dave & Buster’s.
“While I never had the chance to work with Buster, I felt his impact on the culture of this brand every day since I joined the company. Recently, I had the honor of spending time with Buster, and during that time, it all made sense. Watching him interact with the team, it was clear to me that he was a believer in people. He built a company based on a vision he and Dave had 40 years ago that was made real by all the people who believed in him, and he never forgot that. We will honor his legacy by carrying forward his vision. We’ll also carry forward the culture that makes this brand so special to our teams and to the millions of guests we serve every year.”
George McAuliffe has helped hundreds of businesses large and small develop and execute arcades and FECs. He has personally operated family entertainment centers from 2,000 to 150,000 square feet as a corporate executive, entrepreneur and consultant. He is the owner, with his partner and son Howard, of Pinnacle Entertainment Group.
George lives on the Jersey Shore with his wife, Julie. They have three sons, two daughters-in-law and a grandson.
Readers can learn more about Pinnacle at grouppinnacle.com or contact George at [email protected]; phone: 314-422-7197.