Considering the once-hyped franchises of Planet Hollywood have been closing doors in recent months, opening a themed restaurant may be a recipe for disaster. But the folks at Napa, California’s Zoup-ah! think they’re on the path to rebuilding the business model for launching a successful branded restaurant chain. The company is working on a family eatery concept inspired by its 2007-launching TV series, Gaspergoo.
Since the mixed-medium series for four- to seven-year-olds centers on two brothers working culinary magic in the kitchen at a kid-centric restaurant, opening an ancillary line of fully functioning restaurants seemed like a natural brand extension. But the plan didn’t come to fruition until Zoup-ah! formed a partnership with COPIA, a non-profit organization dedicated to celebrating food, wine and the arts in Napa, California. The partnership, initially forged to develop the series’ culinary aspect, expanded after a meet-and-greet with Michael Deller, the principal and co-founder of San Francisco’s Lark Creek Restaurant Group. Best known for serving seasonal farm-fresh cuisine in its San Fran-based One Market and Las Vegas’ Bradley Ogden restaurants, the company was looking to expand its reach. Thanks in part to its financial success with family-restaurant chain, Yankee Pier, the family demo was a logical target.
Initial plans for the seven restaurants, which are set to be built over the next three years, will turn the tables on dining and focus on three- to 11-year-old kids, giving them the impression that they’re taking their parents out for dinner. In that spirit, booster seats won’t be provided for the kids, but the restaurant will ‘de-boost’ their parents with adult-sized chairs that put them at kid-level. Additionally, some desserts will come complete with large mixing bowls and beaters meant for licking.
‘This isn’t about putting a couple of people in mascot suits or showing icons on the walls,’ Jeanne Smith, Zoup-ah!’s co-founder, explains. ‘It’s about recreating the experience of the show in another environment.’ Merchandise will also be available for sale in the restaurants, and the Zoup-ah! team is working to secure licensing partners for several categories, including toys. Kitchen equipment manufacturer The Meyer Corp. has already signed up as global master housewares licensee.
The first Gaspergoo restaurant will likely appear in a tourist-heavy locale, and the partners are scouting locations for a Fall 2007 opening in an urban city such as Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco or New York. The Zoup-ah! team hopes the restaurant launch will coincide with the series’ debut on a yet-to-be-determined U.S. net. The production team is keen to think internationally with the restaurant idea, and will work in tandem with TV distribution partner, Toronto, Canada’s Nelvana, as the company secures worldwide broadcasters.