Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Hard Rock Cafe Plans New Emphasis on Live Music

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Hard Rock Cafe Plans New Emphasis on Live Music

Article excerpt

ORLANDO (AP) -- The Hard Rock Cafe made its name with music memorabilia, guitars and gold albums safely preserved behind display- case glass.

Now, after a decade of falling merchandise sales and the implosion of the themed restaurant industry, the granddaddy of theme restaurants hopes to bring in new business by taking the music down from the wall and onto the stage.

Approaching its 30th birthday, Hard Rock Cafe International is planning a new emphasis on live music in its 103 restaurants worldwide. Hours will be extended late into the night for performances. The 55 restaurants actually owned by the chain will be redesigned or relocated to create space for live performances; the remaining restaurants are franchises.

The Orlando-based company also is redesigning its Web site with the aim of making it a top music destination on the Web. It also recently joined with eBay to sell rock memorabilia and Hard Rock collectibles over the Internet.

Hard Rock officials hope the new focus on live music further distances the company from its themed restaurant competitors, many of which have disappeared or are struggling in a shakeout that began in the mid-1990s.

"As some of our competition is starting to exit the market or wither on the vine, we really stepped up the pace on creating value for our 27 million guests worldwide," said Peter J. Beaudrault, who became Hard Rock's president and chief operating officer last year after a management reorganization.

The Hard Rock brand is in dire need of revitalization, analysts say, after experiencing a decade of declining merchandise sales, which account for almost half of the company's revenue.

"What they're attempting to do at Hard Rock makes a lot of sense," said Philip Olesen, an analyst for Warburg Dillon Read in Stamford, Conn. "It makes it more than a tourist destination, so people come back time and again and it offers more than t-shirts and mediocre food."

Changes also will be made to Hard Rock's menu. No longer content with just burgers and chicken wings, Hard Rock chefs are adding 12 new higher-end items such as stuffed veal chops for $26.95 and lobster tails for $19. …

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