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Landry’s, Schussler hatch 2 more ‘eater-tainment’ places

ORLANDO Fla. Landry’s Restaurants Inc. and Schussler Creative Inc. and have started construction here of their second dinosaur-themed T-Rex Cafe, following the opening of the new Yak & Yeti Restaurant in Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park.

The first T-Rex, which features animated dinosaurs and a broad family-oriented menu, opened near Kansas City, Kan., in the summer of 2007. The second location, which will be 32,000 square feet in Downtown Disney, is scheduled to open in November, said Steven Schussler, founder, chairman and chief executive of Schussler Creative Inc. in Golden Valley, Minn. Schussler developed the Rain Forest Café concept, which was later sold to Landry’s. His company specializes in the development of so-called “eater-tainment” concepts.

Landry’s and Schussler Creative, which is a minority partner in the ventures, opened Yak & Yeti on Nov. 14.

Schussler said the Asian-inspired eatery, which is based on a fictional Mount Everest village called Anandapur, has 600 seats, 350 of which are devoted to quick-service food and 250 for table service.

“It’s pretty freaking cool,” said Schussler. “We worked directly alongside Disney’s ‘imagineering’ division in putting this restaurant together.”

The $16 million project took a year and half to build, Schussler said. “It looks like something straight out of 250 years ago,” he added.

Astory goes along with the project. According to the tale, an entrepreneur opened the restaurant and kept doing well, expanding it and then opening a hotel. “We have all these buildings that look 200 years old, with cracks in the walls and ceilings and floor,” he said. “It costs twice as much money to make something look old – or to make it look old like its going to fall down but has special bracing inside.”

Schussler, who has often been quoted as saying “people come once for the ‘wow factor,’ but they return for the food and service,” said the food has drawn a wide following at the theme park.

Landry’s Yak & Yeti’s pan-Asian menu, which features wonton and miso soup, lettuce cups, pork pot stickers with dipping sauce, Vietnamese spring rolls, lemon-grass shrimp bowl, hoisin-barbecue-glazed ribs, marinated salmon, Korean flat-iron steak, teriyaki chicken with crispy spinach and crispy duck. An open kitchen allows for wok cooking, Schussler said.

Yak & Yeti was  “done exclusively for Disney,” Schussler said, while the T-Rex concept is being marketed elsewhere as well.

Work is beginning on the new T-Rex as Landry’s founder, chairman, chief executive and president Tilman J. Fertitta is trying to buy the company in a deal valued at $1.3 billion. The company operates about 200 restaurants, including the Landry’s Seafood House chain.

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