Handicapping the Sure Failure of Rolling Stone's New Restaurant Venture

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Reviews of Rolling Stone: Drum King, the videogame brand extention undertaken over the summer by the once venerable rock mag, were not kind. I'm From Rolling Stone, the MTV-sponsored reality TV show, limped through ten episodes in the spring months of 2007, and was promptly cancelled, although its Wikipedia page remains good for a laugh or two. (E.g., "Peter Maiden is now a video editor for Rolling Stone. He is also a bartender in New York.") The music mag business has been revealed to be a delicate one indeed. So what, in the waning hours of 2009, does the visionary publication see as its future? Well, according to LA Times, Rolling Stone will leverage "its status as a preeminent chronicler of the rock music world and pop culture" into a new kind of empire..."built on food and drinks."

Ahem. The magazine's first "large-scale restaurant and nightclub" is set to open next summer, in the unrealistic and sunny climes of Hollywood, California, where it will do battle with assorted Hard Rock Cafes and Planet Hollywoods. In this glutted market, in which the two chains already established "have taken embarrassing financial thrashings in the past," the RS competitive edge will be a combination of "higher-end" food, a secret "up-market lounge" with bottle service, and "a timeless interior of exposed black brick, tufted leather and an antique iron staircase," rather than the tacky memorabilia worshipped on the walls of the Hard Rock Cafe or, for that matter, in the pages of Rolling Stone, the magazine.

Just how easy is it in fact to crack the vaunted halls of TGI Fridays et al?

    Breaking into the crowded food-service business is no picnic, said stock analyst Conrad Lyon of Global Hunter Securities in Newport Beach.

    "The restaurant industry in the higher end is really taking it on the chin," he said, as families cut back on recreational spending and corporations limit expense-account dining and banquet meetings. Sales at high-end steak house chain Ruth's Chris, for example, were off 24% in the third quarter compared with the year-earlier period.

    One hot, hip establishment in Hollywood might succeed, he said, "but I would be very skeptical of a chain working in this environment. Outside of New York, L.A. and Las Vegas, trendy concepts are a challenge."

Ah, that whole timing thing. Let us now recall what analysts said about that whole videogame thing, which was another visionary idea, right? Let's check the tape:

    In fact, Rolling Stone may be coming into the game a bit after the curve. Rock Band 2, one of the most hotly anticipated music games of last year, sold solidly but behind expectations. There has been some worry in the games industry that the genre has peaked. In recent years, band simulators have become powerful forces in the games industry as well as the music business. Labels now vie for inclusion in the games, and special editions around classic bands like Aerosmith have helped reignite catalog sales.

Oops! Perhaps they should consult to their crack editorial team, which remains of course on the vanguard of popular taste. Doesn't it?

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Ah, fuck it.

Rolling Stone to launch restaurant chain in L.A.
[LA Times]
Rolling Stone to open Hollywood restaurant, nightclub [Romenesko]



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