You can rock hard, eat hard, buy merchandise hard, and even sleep hard with Hard Rock Cafe International. The company operates the Hard Rock Cafe chain of theme restaurants with more than 130 company-owned and franchised locations in about 50 countries. Offering a menu of mostly American fare, the eateries attract attention with a collection of rock music memorabilia and Hard Rock-branded merchandise. The company also licenses the Hard Rock name for use by more than a dozen hotels and casino resorts. Its collection of rock n' roll memorabilia boasts more than 70,000 items. Peter Morton and Isaac Tigrett opened the first Hard Rock Cafe in London in 1971. Today, the Seminole Tribe of Florida owns the chain.
Hard Rock Cafe is by definition a restaurant company but it might be seen more appropriately as a part of the travel and tourism industry. The chain has outposts in many of the world's top tourist destinations, including Acapulco, Las Vegas, Chicago's River North neighborhood, San Antonio's River Walk, and Times Square (New York City). It promotes the Hard Rock brand as a fun but familiar oasis where patrons can get a burger, surround themselves with rock n' roll memories, and walk away with a t-shirt memorializing their visit. A pioneer in the destination dining segment, Hard Rock Cafe helped pave the way for chains such as Bubba Gump Shrimp and Planet Hollywood.
While the company is still anchored by its corporate-run Hard Rock Cafes, it is increasingly focused on licensing the Hard Rock name to casinos and hotels. The company has several development deals in the works to open new hotels in the Middle East and Latin America. However, the well-known Hard Rock Hotel and Casino property in Las Vegas is a separate business under different ownership.
The company has also not allowed the global recession to slow its expansion efforts. Focusing mostly on franchised locations, Hard Rock Cafe added new eateries in India, Malaysia, and Thailand during 2009. Having more restaurants also means more outlets for Hard Rock merchandise: shirts, hats and other branded goods account for about a third of the company's overall sales.
The Seminole Tribe, which operates a half dozen casinos (including two Hard Rock branded venues), acquired the restaurant and leisure business in 2007 for $965 million from UK-based leisure company Rank Group. The acquisition gave the tribe's already successful leisure operations a foothold in new markets, including other states where gaming is legal. Rank decided to sell its Hard Rock subsidiary to focus on UK gaming businesses.
Founders Morton and Tigrett initially expanded the Hard Rock chain Los Angeles, New York, Paris, and San Francisco. Tigrett sold his interest in the business to Mecca Leisure, which was acquired by Rank in 1990. The UK-leisure company acquired the remaining interests from Morton and partner Nick Bitove in 1996. – less