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Theme restaurants are restaurants in which the concept of the restaurant takes priority over everything else, influencing the architecture, food, music, and overall 'feel' of the restaurant. The food usually takes a backseat to the presentation of the theme, and these restaurants attract customers solely on the premise of the theme itself.

Popular chain restaurants such as Applebee's or Bennigans - despite having a distinct and consistent style throughout their locations - would not be considered to be theme restaurants by most people. Theme restaurants have an instantly recognizable, easily articulable concept that can be summed up in a few words at most, an almost cartoonish exaggeration of an idea. The popular Rainforest Cafe restaurants have the obvious theme of a "Tropical Rainforest". Medieval Times has its theme of "Medieval Europe". The Jekyll & Hyde Club evokes an atmosphere of Jack the Ripper and Victorian horror novels. Some theme restaurants use controversial images, contexts, or ideas. The most notorious of them is Hitler's Cross, in Mumbai India.

One strange but famous theme restaurant in Berlin, Germany is called "das Klo" (German for "The toilet") it depicts the insides of a toilet.Many people consider the Rainforest Cafe to be the prototypical theme restaurant, and the restaurant which kicked off the theme restaurant fad. Theme restaurants may be experiencing a decline in popularity, given the closings of several Planet Hollywood, Jekyll & Hyde Club, and Wilderness Cafe locations in recent years. Theme restaurants often depend on tourist business, since the theme soon becomes stale to locals, and the focus is not necessarily placed on good food and service. Certain tourist destinations such as the Mall of Americamarker or Orlando, Floridamarker have better chances of supporting theme restaurants. Theme restaurants are generally common at theme parks, such as Universal Studios.

The father of the theme restaurant, credited as being the pioneer of the genre, was David Tallichet, a Texan who served as a bomber pilot in World War II and who died on October 29, 2007 at age 84. Beginning in the 1960s, he decorated restaurants as Polynesian islands, New England fishing villages and French farmhouses (barricaded with sandbags to protect against German bombardment). His Proud Bird restaurant at the Los Angeles International Airport had headphones at each table so that diners could listen to control-tower chatter. Almost all of his restaurants were in Southern California. His company, Specialty Restaurants, grew to revenues of $185 million at its peak in 1980. You can read more about him in this Wall Street Journal[142308] article.

Jekyll and Hyde Club

Some well-known theme restaurants


Scott A. Lukas, “A Politics of Reverence and Irreverence: Social Discourse on Theming Controversies,” pp. 271–293 in The Themed Space: Locating Culture, Nation, and Self, ed. Scott A. Lukas (Lanham, MD, Lexington Books, 2007), ISBN 0739121421

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