They have become used to seeing the happy smiles on children’s faces but since COVID-19, employees of Chuck E Cheese’s have been living dismal lives.
So uncertain are their futures that many have fallen into depression as they wait for the reopening of their franchise.
But even though Chuck E Cheese’s directors have established a 23-page COVID-19 protocol, the establishment has remained closed since July.
During an exclusive interview with Guardian Media, Human Resource Manager of Chuck E Cheese’s Shelleyann Collins said 44 employees were affected by the closure, with 40 temporarily at home and only four core workers getting a partial income.
“People are experiencing financial stress. We are trying to help as best as we can. We have reached out to employees and distributed some hampers. When they ask for assistance, we try to help as best as possible,” Collins said.
Unlike other establishments, Chuck E Cheese’s decided to preserve jobs rather than fire workers.
“We kept everyone on board. The staff was willing to accept reduced hours and a cut in salary,” she said.
Collins said many were unable to meet their financial commitments but are pulling through because of family support.
“There are times when you so frustrated you just don’t know what to do but you have to remember that God is in control,” Collins said, gazing at the empty game room, once filled with the sound of children’s laughter
In the first three months of the lockdown, Collins said she had to apply for a waiver on her loan.
“They call me hotfoot because I like to go out but I had no choice but to cut back on some of the things I did before. Now we live strictly by needs,” she said.
Assistant General Manager at Chuck E Cheese’s Camille Grant expressed similar views.
“Words cannot express how things have been for me. I’ve been dealing with it day by day. By the grace of God, I am getting through,” Grant said.
Saying she did not want to become emotional on camera, Grant said apart from the financial struggles, the psychological agony was often too much to bear.
“At Chuck E Cheese’s we are a family. This is not a regular 9-5 job. We are a family and being away from them is heart-breaking and worrying. I have my battles to deal with. They have more things to deal with. If you have kids in this time and age it is difficult now more than ever,” she said.
She noted that the uncertainty was troubling.
“It’s a bit overwhelming and scary. You don’t know what is in store for your future and the uncertainty of the hospitality industry like when will it be open? Will, you still have a job,” Grant said.
She noted that unlike other employees she did not have any children.
“When you are living with a certain income, you budget yourself. You have to adapt to what you’re dealing with now. You have to restructure the loans to keep up with payments. At the grocery, you have to cut what you once spent. I was blessed that I was moved to a different department so I still have an income but a lot of things had to be cut,” Grant said.
She explained that all of the employees have made it through with the help of family and friends.
“I miss work, I miss my colleagues and I miss meeting our old guests,” Grant said.
She noted that it was not only Chuck E Cheese’s franchise which was affected but many other business places in the hospitality sector.
Grant said while COVID-19 was a serious issue, the country had to learn to exist with the virus. She noted that many establishments in the hospitality sector had already put COVID-19 guidelines in place and were eagerly waiting for reopening.