LOS ANGELES-“Our goal is that people never have to eat alone,” said Josh Sugarman, CEO of Codename Burg3r, a new Los Angeles-based immersive gaming experience that’s part event, restaurant, puzzle and theatrical experience, all taking place from a consumer’s dining table.
The experience, cheekily called the “Best Alternative Reality Burger Restaurant Ever,” allows diners to choose from a variety of burger options, each with its own set of puzzles and puzzles. clues to solve while eating. The diners then report to the Bureau for Unexplained and Non-Normal (BUN, for short) appointed appropriately. Once your first mission is completed, you can unlock additional games, create your own secret agent avatar, uncover hidden objects, and even access secret menu items. New missions are released every week and can accommodate up to six people for a 60-minute experience. Instructions are provided by text message, and in addition to the food, the boxes come with props, theme notes and other fun items.
Sugarman says the idea was born during the pandemic. In April 2020, shortly after the closures related to COVID-19, he and his team launched their first foray into immersive home experiences with Vampire (dot) Pizza, which delivered pizzas accompanied by a script and d ‘a vampire themed game. Reservations for the experience were initially sold out in just 96 hours.
“The idea came from a good old-fashioned human need,” Sugarman explained, recalling that at the start of the COVID-related shutdowns, he was simply looking for ways to make his life – and his meals with his little one back. friend – more interesting. “We realized then that we had the resources to do it, not only for ourselves but also for other people who are going through the same thing.”
Sugarman comes from a television and film background, where he was “always focused on projects that created a world or adapted a world,” he noted. He became interested in the world of immersive events after learning about London-based entertainment company Secret Cinema and New York-based theater production Sleep No More. “I have become a huge fan of the potential of immersive space to change the way we come together and Why we come together, and how we experience stories and how we interact with each other.
Photo: Courtesy of codename Burg3rSo when COVID-19 shut down live events, entertainment productions, and restaurants, it jumped at the chance to give those communities work. (In fact, a portion of Vampire (dot) Pizza’s proceeds last spring went to a GoFundMe page for the League of Experiential and Interactive Artists.) Sugarman initially leveraged his existing network of game makers and designers. designers of immersive experiences, and also tapped her sister, who previously ran a restaurant business that closed during the pandemic; she is now leading the restore operations for the codename Burg3r.
“At the heart of it all was me from the entertainment world and her from the events and catering world coming together to do something like this,” he explained.
Another goal? So that the guests feel like part of a community. “When you eat a Codename burger, you eat with other people who are simultaneously playing with you,” Sugarman pointed out. “You will be able to interact with our characters, which you will see over and over again, and you will be able to create your own character and do whatever you could do in a video game, but ultimately you are going to be able to interact directly with the other people playing simultaneously. . We really wanted to use technology to create everything you get for going to a great restaurant in your home. “
Sugarman hopes to transition from the codename Burg3r to a larger codename universe soon, which encompasses the codename Burg3r, Vampire (dot) Pizza, and other future experiences. “We always say, ‘It’s like Uber Eats and an open world video game just got smashed together,” ”he said.
While the team currently makes the food locally in Los Angeles, Sugarman hopes in the future to allow restaurants across the country to serve as so-called local offices. “We are partnering with other restaurants and other people in the event space who can use this world and this system that we have created to make the fun real and immersive,” he said. “It’s about finding ways for restaurants to deliver their food to customers in a new way. “
When asked what he thought would be an effective immersive theater experience, Sugarman noted that it was different for each attendee – and that’s the point. “The audience has to find what makes it magical for them. Create a world big enough that everyone can find their special nook and cranny and moments.
Another key? Commitment from every staff member on your team. “[At Codename,] everyone can create their own character, ”he explained. “These aren’t necessarily people from the entertainment or theater spaces, they are customer service representatives. On the first day, we say, “OK, we need you to find a secret agent character,” he said. “It improves the customer experience every step of the way. “