Robert Ian Earl
is the founder of the Planet Hollywood
chain of fast-food
restaurants and an Everton F.C.
Robert Ian Earl is an entertainment and theme dining entrepreneur.
He began his career in 1977 when he founded President
Entertainment, a company specializing in theme restaurants. He led
the organization until 1998 when he sold the company to Pleasurama.
Following the sale, Earl joined the executive team of Pleasurama
and led the company's acquisition team of Hard Rock Café. He later
became CEO of Hard Rock, overseeing the expansion of the brand from
its initial seven units to 22 units, while increasing
profitability. Earl’s vision was to link Hollywood celebrities with
his propertise thereby creating excitment.
During the same time period, Earl served as a Director of Pelican
Group PLC, responsible for the growth of such brands as Café Rouge,
Dôme, and Mamma Amalfi. That company was eventually sold to
In 1991, Earl founded Planet Hollywood International, Inc.. The
company became the controlling body for a number of different
entertainment-based theme restaurants located throughout the world.
The most recognizable propertise are a approximately 50 "Planet
Hollywood" restaurants that again marry hollywood celebrity with
dining. Another restaurant concept controlled by Planet Hollywood
International is the "Official All Star Cafe" chain, which centers
on professional sports and follows a sports-bar theme. The company
also runs the "Marvel Mania" and "Chefs of the World"
Earl became joint venture partners in 2003 with London Clubs with
his purchase of London’s famed 50 St. James, one of London’s most
prestigious gaming addresses. Now operating under the name Fifty,
the casino with its fine dining restaurants and hot night club
scene, has set a new standard for gaming establishments in the UK.
Additionally in 2003, Earl announced a partnership with Lord
Sandwich, the 11th Earl of Sandwich, to launch Earl of Sandwich
shops in the United States. The first gourmet sandwich shop opened
in March, 2004, at Florida’s Walt Disney World Resort in the
Downtown Disney Marketplace.
In June, 2003, Earl, along with joint venture partners, Bay Harbour
Management LC and Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, purchased
the Aladdin Resort and Casino located in the heart of the famed Las
Vegas Strip. The property underwent a complete head-to-toe
renovation and celebrated its grand re-opening in 2007 as the
Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. The 2600 room property
features highly coveted restaurants, nightclubs, lounges, full
service spa and gym and a high-tech gaming floor. The entire resort
is encircled by the Miracle Mile Shops with over 170 retail
In October 2006, Earl became a partner in the Everton Football
Mr. Earl and his wife Tricia live in Orlando, FL., and have three
children, Beth, Cara and Robbie.
The first Planet Hollywood restaurant opened in New York City in
1991, but the events leading up to its inception can be traced back
almost 20 years earlier. In 1972, a young man by the name of Robert
Earl opened a dinner-theater in London called "The Beefeater,"
which offered customers (mainly tourists) a medieval-themed dining
experience. Earl, who had graduated with a degree in hotel and
restaurant management from the University of Surrey, possessed a
talent for creating entertainment-based restaurant concepts that
drew large numbers of customers. He soon developed The Beefeater
into a popular local success, which prompted him to open other
similar restaurant concepts nearby. In the late-1970s, he created
"Talk of London," "Shakespeare's Tavern," and "The Cockney Club,"
all of which remain operational today.
Although successful in London, Earl saw greater growth potential in
the American market, and therefore came to the U.S. in the
early-1980s to sell his concepts to the developers of a then-new
Disney World attraction called Epcot Center. The deal fell through,
but Earl decided to stay in Florida anyway and try his luck in the
Orlando restaurant business. He opened a number of
theme-restaurants using medieval and Wild West ideas, nurturing his
new restaurant group until it was sold to a larger holding company
in the mid-1980s.
After changing hands again numerous times, his enterprise landed in
the lap of Mecca Leisure, who had just purchased rights to Hard
Rock International's eastern region. Hard Rock International was
the controlling body for the "Hard Rock Cafe" chain of
music-industry-based theme restaurants. In 1989, Mecca appointed
Earl as the new chief executive of their portion of the Hard Rock
operation, and put him in charge of expanding the chain in the
eastern United States.
Within two years, Earl had helped the eastern-region Hard Rock Cafe
chain grow from 7 units to 20. It was during that time that Earl
met film producer Keith Barish, who would soon become his business
partner and the cofounder of Planet Hollywood International, Inc.
Earl and Barish shared a belief that music, movies, and sports were
capable of transcending all barriers, language and otherwise,
between the people of the world. The two men decided to capitalize
on the worldwide appeal of the film and television entertainment
industry by opening a restaurant based on that theme. Dubbing their
creation "Planet Hollywood," Earl and Barish opened the restaurant
in New York City in late 1991.
Quick Success in the Early 1990s
Planet Hollywood was immediately successful, drawing crowds that
often lined up outside the restaurant for hours in order to get
tables. Part of the restaurant's appeal lay in its museum-like
quality; a multitude of real film and television costumes, props,
and memorabilia made up its decor. The rest of the attraction was
attributed to a genius marketing strategy used by the restaurant's
founders. They asked celebrities such as Arnold Schwarzenegger,
Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Demi Moore, and Whoopi Goldberg
to act as the restaurant's investor/owners. Every once in a while,
these celebrities would stop by "their restaurant" to check in and
mingle briefly with their fans. Although this was a somewhat rare
occurrence, customers still flocked to the restaurant in hopes that
they would be one of the lucky few to dine with the stars.
A year after launching Planet Hollywood, Earl left behind his post
at Hard Rock and also severed ties to his original theme-restaurant
group in Orlando. He and Barish began planning the worldwide
introduction of additional Planet Hollywood restaurants, and
started by recruiting more celebrity investors for the new
locations. Climbing on board were film actors Don Johnson and
then-wife Melanie Griffith, director John Hughes, comedienne
Roseanne, and actors Tom Arnold, Wesley Snipes, and Danny Glover.
By mid-1993, Planet Hollywood International had opened new
restaurants in London and southern California, and was completing
the construction of a fourth unit in Chicago.
New York City architect David Rockwell was hired by Earl and Barish
to design the new units, each of which typically seated over 200
people and contained film props and floor layouts that were unique
to their locations. Different items on display throughout the chain
included Dorothy's dress from "The Wizard of Oz," the pottery wheel
used by Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze in "Ghost," a replica of the
castle from "Dracula," the Batmobile, the Flintstone buggy, and a
plastic model of the meat slab that was pulverized by Stallone in
the film "Rocky." Customers were also treated to celebrity hand
print walls and big-screen televisions which played promotional
clips for upcoming movies.
Meanwhile, a Hard Rock International executive by the name of Peter
Morton filed suit against Earl and Planet Hollywood, alleging that
Earl had engaged in the appropriation of trade secrets. Morton, a
cofounder of Hard Rock International and the CEO of its western
region, believed that Earl's Planet Hollywood chain was a ripoff of
the Hard Rock concept. Earl nonchalantly dismissed the charges,
however, and the case against Planet Hollywood never amounted to
much in court. Furthermore, Morton's complaint did little to deter
Planet Hollywood from expanding further, nor did it curb the
public's desire to patronize the new and rapidly blossoming chain.
Soon Planet Hollywood was known as a worldwide leader in the theme
By the end of 1993, Planet Hollywood had not only opened two new
restaurants in Washington, D.C., and Cancun, Mexico, but it had
also signed leases for 5 new units in Phoenix, New Orleans, Aspen,
Maui, and Minneapolis's "Mall of America" (the largest shopping
mall in the United States). Each opening was a gala event, drawing
enormous crowds of people to catch a glimpse of the many media
personalities who made appearances and celebrated the new
successes. But the true test of a new location occurred the day
after the "official" opening, at which time a restaurant actually
opened its doors to the general public. Without fail, each new
Planet Hollywood passed these "tests" with ease, and in the first
year of operation most were generating revenues of almost $15
million per unit.
A strong asset of the Planet Hollywood concept was that each unit
sold licensed Planet Hollywood merchandise in addition to serving
food and drinks. Items of all kinds were sold, from key rings and
T-shirts, to sweatshirts, watches, and leather coats. Sales of this
merchandise helped boost Planet Hollywood's profit margins
considerably above those achieved at other restaurants that relied
solely on food items to bring in profits. Merchandise became so
popular that within a few years, the company began to open separate
retail stores called "Planet Hollywood Superstores," a move which
even further increased yearly profits.
The End of the Century and Beyond
In 1994, Planet Hollywood continued its aggressive expansion
program, and units continued to open worldwide. The company also
began developing additional theme-restaurant ideas, including the
concept for the Official All Star Cafe. Acknowledging the success
that Planet Hollywood had achieved from drawing upon the public's
interest in celebrity life, Earl and Barish decided that the
Official All Star Cafe would be the perfect sports-based
equivalent. They began recruiting professional sports figures to
invest in the concept, drawing in people such as hockey great Wayne
Gretzky, football icon Joe Montana, and basketball superstar
Shaquille O'Neal. Plans for the new restaurants included a menu of
"stadium cuisine" supplemented by home cooking, and sales of
professional sports merchandise and souvenirs.
Also in 1994, the company opened what would soon become its
highest-grossing Planet Hollywood unit, in Las Vegas. Unlike most
previous units, which seated approximately 250 people, the Las
Vegas restaurant was designed to seat 500 and was planned by
Rockwell so that there would be no "bad" seats. The unit's opening
rivaled a sporting event or the Academy Awards in magnitude, in
that it drew a crowd of over ten thousand people who packed
themselves into stadium-like bleachers nearby to witness the stars'
arrivals at the event. Even former President and First Lady George
and Barbara Bush were on hand to celebrate. Later that year another
500-seater was opened in Orlando's Disney World, which gave Earl
and Barish ownership of the two highest-grossing restaurants in the
At that point, Planet Hollywood was composed of 18 units around the
world, and the company was projecting the addition of 17 more
during 1995. The Planet Hollywood chain was expanding almost on its
own, so Earl decided to begin focusing his attention and energy on
other avenues of growth while the chain took care of itself. In
August 1995, ground was broken in New York City nearby the original
Planet Hollywood, and construction of the first Official All Star
Cafe began. Meanwhile, plans were in the works to develop a
theme-restaurant chain based on characters from the Marvel Comics
series. Also, television game-show producer King World began
working with Roseanne Barr's production company on a "Planet
Hollywood Squares" television game show, which was to be a revival
of the original "Hollywood Squares" from decades past with a new
Planet Hollywood twist.
With Planet Hollywood quickly becoming a household name, the
company decided to go public in 1996. Not only was stock offered to
the public, but the company also convinced MBNA to issue Planet
Hollywood VISA credit cards, which gave cardholders priority
seating at the restaurants. A joint venture with ITT Corporation
was also formed to develop Planet Hollywood casinos in Las Vegas
and Atlantic City in the future. Furthermore, Marvel Entertainment
Group, Inc. and Planet Hollywood International decided to move
ahead with the comic book character-based restaurant concept,
calling it "Marvel Mania." Ideas for a new concept called "Chefs of
the World," which was to feature a "star-studded" culinary staff,
also began to arise.
Some began to wonder whether Planet Hollywood was spreading its
resources too thin, and speculations surfaced as to whether the
company would be able to continue the growth trend that it had been
experiencing for the past five years. Earl maintained ambitious
goals to keep the company expanding by 30 to 40 percent each year,
in both the number of restaurant locations and in annual revenues.
Criticisms of that plan, however, centered on the idea that the
more units that were opened, the less unique a customer's
experience in patronizing the restaurant chain, which could lead to
a drop in sales. Furthermore, theme restaurants were popping up all
over the country, providing Earl and Barish with intense
competition. The Harley-Davidson Cafe was gaining popularity, as
were other concepts such as Robert DeNiro's Tribeca Grill, the
Country Star chain (backed by Wynonna Judd, Vince Gill, and Reba
McEntire), and the Thunder Roadhouse (backed by Dennis Hopper,
Dwight Yoakam, and Peter Fonda).
But Planet Hollywood and the Official All Star Cafe did possess one
major advantage over their competition, which was the celebrity
endorsement received through stars' ownership and investment in the
chains. Many customers thus viewed these restaurants as the
"originals." As for continued growth potential, Earl dismissed
skepticism with easy confidence. Given that in only 5 years the
company had grown from one $3.5 million restaurant in New York to
an almost $300 million operation with approximately 50 units spread
throughout the world, it seemed to be a safe bet that Planet
Hollywood possessed the ability to continue the trend of success
into the coming century.
Everton Football Club
In 2006 Earl bought shares in Everton from major shareholders
Paul and Anita Gregg
, they resigned from
the board following the sale. It's understood that he is a Tottenham Hotspur
fan and is involved with
Everton F.C. to help move the club to a new stadium.
He indicated that he has no intention of taking over the
"It's an endorsement of Bill Kenwright, an endorsement of David
Moyes - it is not a takeover. Anything that helps the economic
model, and in turn gives David a better pool of talent, is
something we want to do."
high profile involvement with the club has been inviting his friend
and business partner Sylvester
Stallone to Goodison
the mysterious resignation of Chief Executive Officer Keith Wyness, Earl and friend Philip Green sailed to from Sardinia to Majorca to meet with
Earl accused Wyness of looking for another job on
BCR Sports is an investment
for Robert Earl. The company is registered in the British Virgin
It owns 23% of Everton Football Club.