Posted by Barry Silverstein on December 7, 2009 11:40 AM
In a world where print versions of newspapers and magazines are failing every day, 42-year-old Rolling Stone magazine has found a new and novel way to extend its brand: The restaurant business. Rolling Stone will open the first of what is expected to be a chain of restaurants next summer in L.A.
The restaurant, to be located near the famous Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, will actually function as two establishments: a restaurant and bar at Hollywood and Highland Center opening into the mall, and a late-night lounge, operated at street level on Highland Avenue.
Rolling Stone magazine has remained a stable publication despite industry shakeouts. The publication's eclectic mix of celebrity covers, music coverage, and politics/current events features has a certain appeal to progressive audiences, including baby boomers who recall its rebellious roots. Rolling Stone is no stranger to brand extensions, either -- the company publishes its own books and released a video game this year.
But opening a restaurant is a high stakes business with no guarantee of success. Rolling Stone partner Niall Donnelly is well aware that competitors like Hard Rock Cafe and Planet Hollywood have stumbled financially. "The food will be higher-end than Hard Rock," says Donnelly. "The venue itself will be for higher-end audiences." In referring to Hard Rock's penchant for hanging rock memorabilia on its walls, Donnelly says, "We don't want it to be a museum."
According to Rolling Stone, the restaurants will typically feature live deejays and may occasionally have live music for special events, but concerts are not planned.
There is a precedent for media brands opening restaurant chains. One notably successful example is ESPN, the sports television network that operates ESPN Zone, a sports dining and entertainment venue with locations in 8 U.S. cities, including Los Angeles and Anaheim. ESPN Zone serves a full menu, has a bar, and features sports viewing and interactive games.
But failures abound as well, such as Playboy magazine's ill-fated Playboy Clubs, which shut down in the 1980s. There is one remaining Playboy Club at the Palms in Las Vegas.
Undeterred, Rolling Stone magazine is hoping its iconic brand will have diners turning the pages of its restaurants' menus for years to come.