Technology-loaded Hard Rock opens in Vegas

Technology-loaded Hard Rock opens in Vegas

LAS VEGAS Looking to help reverse negative visitor traffic trends in this famous gambling and dining destination, Hard Rock International on Saturday opened its second Sin City branch – a three-level, 42,000-square-foot “cafe,” complete with 950 dining seats, a 1,000-chair concert hall and three guest-facing interactive technologies.

Amecca for showcasing independent fine-dining restaurants for more than a decade, this city, with the opening of Hard Rock Cafe Las Vegas II, now is also home to two major chain flagship properties, as the new Hard Rock’s debut follows by nine months the unveiling of Viva McDonald’s [3], the 185-seat vanguard venue from McDonald’s Corp.

The new Hard Rock Cafe on Las Vegas Boulevard, or “The Strip” as it is known worldwide, is in the Showcase Mall, next to the MGM Grand and adjacent to the Monte Carlo hotel-casino, and it is a short drive from the established cafe at the Hard Rock Hotel on Paradise Road. There are no plans to close the Paradise Road location, according to officials of Seminole Hard Rock Entertainment Inc. of Orlando, Fla., owner of the chain that now has 11 hotels and casinos and 127 cafes worldwide, including nearly 50 in the United States.

Beyond its grand scale, the newest Hard Rock Cafe stands out from its chain siblings by virtue of its suite of interactive technologies intended to entertain and inform guests while putting a spotlight on the 38-year-old enterprise’s renowned collection of rock memorabilia.

Anchoring the new technology, at least in terms of turning heads, is Rock Wall, a 14-foot-wide-by-4-foot-high interface and player for images and videos associated with Hard Rock Cafe’s memorabilia collection that users navigate by touch. Hard Rock partnered with Technomedia Systems and Obscura Digital to create the system. The projected images appearing on the ‘wall’ can be selected, moved and resized by up to six users at one time.

The second part of Hard Rock’s interactive technology portfolio takes the form of tables using Microsoft Corp. Surface technology. That technology relies on cameras to sense objects as well as touch and hand gestures on or above the 30-inch surface display, which can be used by multiple patrons to launch and navigate custom applications created by Hard Rock and Vertigo. One such program permits users to “deep zoom,” or virtually tour the world to select a Hard Rock location, explore images on the exterior and interior of the chosen cafe and then drill down through imagery and information tied to the memorabilia housed in that particular branch.

“Booth Interactive,” as the chain refers to its third guest-operated technology, puts 19-inch touch-screen displays tableside in the restaurant area so that cafe customers can access the multimedia memorabilia collection catalog, with more than 1,000 items, and tap into the in-house music-video system to cast a vote for the next song. The system also permits uses to search for memorabilia, if any, linked to the artists playing on the in-house music-video system and has the capability to display the merchandise being sold by the cafe’s Rock Shop.

For its U.S. restaurant operations, Hard Rock Cafe had estimated 2008 systemwide food and beverage sales of about $180 million, according to the Nation’s Restaurant News Second 100 census. Though the new Las Vegas cafe is expected to generate substantially higher foodservice sales than is typical for the chain, its U.S. systemwide estimated sales per unit, as reported in Second 100, was about $4.1 million.

Grand openings, such as that of the new Hard Rock Cafe, while good for keeping Las Vegas in the news, likely are not appreciated by established competitors in that city, as sales-driving visitor traffic has been down in 2009. Year to date through June, the most recent month for which information is available, total visitor traffic to Las Vegas was off by 6.8 percent, versus 2008, the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority said.

Contact Alan J. Liddle at [email protected] [4]