Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wednesday Wishlist: Flagship Chain Restaurants

If you read this blog regularly, you might have done a double take on the title. I usually promote unique restaurants that bring something new to the city over chain restaurants, but I think there are a few must-have chains that you will only find in fully developed and popular cities. I would call these flagship chains because they are usually gigantic and offer something else besides food to patrons, so even those that don't enjoy the cuisine can still have a great time. They also draw shoppers and tourists like magnets.

Here's my list of Flagship Chain Restaurants I would like to see in San Jose someday:

  • Rainforest Cafe
  • Hard Rock Cafe
  • Planet Hollywood
  • House of Blues (Downtown was so close to getting one)
  • ESPN Zone  
Do you have any to add to the list? Post in the comments.

Atlantic City House of Blues


  1. I would disagree with Planet Hollywood only because when I went to the one in Vegas the food was uneatable. I was really disappointed that Hooters went in on Bascom near Campbell instead of Downtown SJ, that would have been great DT.

  2. I dunno about these, Josh.

    House of Blues is the only one I can actually imagine going to myself. The others...

    The only Rainforest Cafe I know was in a shopping mall in might fit in Valley Fair, but not really downtown.

    And wishing for a Hard Rock seems like living in the past. In the '80's every high school kid wanted to be wearing a Hard Rock t-shirt from some exotic foreign city. Now the idea just seems kind of tired. And Planet Hollywood just looks like (I've never been to either of these) a Hard Rock knock-off.

    I'm not sure about ESPNZone either --- on the one hand it reminds me of their early internet presence in the mid-90s, which gives me some nostalgia. On the other hand, what I'd expect to see when I get there is a Dave 'n' Busters knock-off with more corporate branding tie-ins.

    Can't San Jose come up with something new and all its own instead of retreaded adult McDonaldlands of past decades?

  3. I knew this post may not be very well received :P. The food in any of these is not as good as what we already have downtown, but they are still all major tourist draws that people from anywhere will likely recognize.

    I don't think I would patronize these places more than once with the exception of House of Blues and Rainforest Cafe (try the one in SF, I think it's better than the Mall ones). I would absolutely prefer a unique San Jose flagship concept, but these types of places require a ton of investment... much more than a large restaurant. If I had oodles of cash lying around, I think I would take a stab at an idea or two. Maybe Woz has some ideas =)

  4. I guess that, like having a major sports team, these things are indicators of when a city has reached the "big leagues". In this case, the big leagues of tourism.

    But I don't think the are a tourist "draw". Nobody goes to London to go the Hard Rock. They go to the Hard Rock after they've been to Buckingham Palace and Big Ben. Nobody goes to Orlando to go to the Hard Rock. They go to the Hard Rock after they've been to Disney World, and can't figure out what else to do.

    If you agree with that, then it means that these places don't contribute to a city's tourist industry. They're not tourist draws, they're leeches living off the original and unique attractions that bring the tourists to a city.

  5. This is a tough one. I think Flagship Chains would draw locals Downtown, not tourists. Like Matt said, these places are where there's already a tourist draw, but they're not tourist destinations in themselves. And I'd rather locals go to local restaurants.

    House of Blues is the only one I'd like to see because it comes with a stage and a name that can bring in bigger acts.

    Big picture: are tourists really what San Jose needs? I'd much rather see a Public Market than a Fisherman's Wharf or Downtown Disney. I think we want local flavor to thrive (like in SoFA) and if tourists decide we're worth a visit, that's just a bonus.

  6. I'd be happy if just San Jose Live (or something like it) came back. That was a big fun sports bar back in the day.

  7. House of Blues, for sure!! I loved your post on Yoshi's! That would really be awesome.

    Cheesecake Factory would be a big hit although, like you, I'm partial to more original venues.

    Thumbs down on the Rainforest Cafe. It's a kitsch, ignorant caricature of Latin America and Africa. RM

  8. +1 for Yoshis, House of Blues, Hard Rock Cafe, BJ's, Elephant Bar. I've always enjoyed going to the Yard House when visiting San Diego, lucky for me they are already building one on Santana Row.

    Rainforest Cafe is horrible.

  9. We do have a Cheesecake factory, it's in Oakridge Mall (the Valley Fair I think is in Santa Clara technically).

    I like the concept of a Rainforest cafe... every 10min or so have something dynamic happen in the restaurant. I also completely forgot about Elephant Bar, that would be another nice to have.

    I'll also do a post at some point about chain restaurants without gimmicks that would be great to have. I went to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse today, that would absolutely be on my list. We were supposed to get one in the building with Amichi's but plans fell through several years ago.

  10. Oakridge mall won't revive downtown san jose, however.

    That's what I had in mind. Sorry about the misunderstanding. RM

  11. A thing to consider in downtown is that their are already tourists there. They may not be in San Jose for sightseeing though because they are in San Jose for work reasons.

    The reason you would want a nationally known chain is name recognition for these people. Of the chains above, I also would like a House of Blues because it brings something downtown that is not already there.

    If we could have a local "entertainment" type restaurant, I would like a high-tech consumer electronics type restaurant. I wouldn't want a high tech way to order like Nolan Bushnell's uWink. It would be a restaurant where you could get hands on to all the latest devices from Apple, Google, and from other companies around the world that may or may not be available in the US.

  12. Hmm..the last poster tangentially raised the possibility, but I'll say it: why not an Apple store in downtown San Jose? WOW. THAT would help stir the pot-in a good way!!

  13. I would be all for a tech-driven restaurant! I wonder what kind of technology would be applicable here. Integrating gadgets might be difficult, but I could see something like Microsoft's surface come into play (make the tabletop interactive and dynamic, perhaps depending on the type of food you order?). Or just toss in some dancing Japanese robots, that would work too.

    You can also add me to the list of people requesting an Apple store downtown. The corner location on Santa Clara Street where Spiedo used to be would be perfect.

  14. How about a Grand Lux Cafe (the "Upscale" Cheesecake Factory) in DSJ? I went to one at The Palazzo in Vegas and it was awesome! I could see one at Diridon (perhaps the historic Diridon Station), SJ Water Works building near HP Pavilion, or even the lobby of Old B of A Building.

  15. I've never been to a Grand Lux Cafe, but I'll definitely add it to the list for a separate Wishlist Wednesday listing non-gimmicky chains. The menu looks pretty good to me!

  16. The Wednesday wishlist Flagship chain in shared on the post here. Read all about it