Yet, improving same-store revenue is only part of the challenge. Much of the growth of the existing Hard Rock franchise -- and Berk expects to add 14 stores this year -- will be in second-tier markets. Some of those stores will be smaller and will not approach the revenue of the "A list" markets.
Bringing back the excitement and cachet of the brand may prove more elusive. There's a feeling in the industry -- prevalent, but difficult to quantify -- that Hard Rock lacks energy, especially when compared with Planet Hollywood. The latter is awash in star appeal, owing in part to Earl, who has made a business of courting celebrities such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis.
No analysts are ready to give up on Hard Rock, but all agree that, with theme hash houses seemingly on every corner, the company has to do more than change the furniture.
Hard Rock's new businesses may help restore some of its luster. The new television show, for instance, is a video-music program that will air on the VH-1 cable channel and seems to be an ideal vehicle to increase the company's standing as a music-industry leader. It also is formalizing an arrangement with Rhino Records this month to launch musical works.
The amphitheater at Hard Rock's new Universal site, meanwhile, will be used for live concerts beamed to its restaurants worldwide. Again, the idea is to give an air of urgency -- what Berk calls a "buzz" -- to the business.
'Found my notes'
"It takes a lot to keep it at that level," he said, lobbing a brickbat at the Planet Hollywood promotions machine. "If it's just hype, ultimately, that fades."
Berk and Earl insist that any struggle between their companies is fueled more by press hype than genuine animosity. Still, neither can resist the occasional jab. Asked about his former employer's new businesses, Earl said the company was making wise moves -- ones he recommended four years ago.
"When I left Hard Rock , I left a strategic plan in place," Earl said. "It sounds like someone has finally found my notes."
For all its growth, Planet Hollywood has been unable to avoid some of the Hard Rock pitfalls.
It, too, saw comparable-store sales decline last year because of problems in the restaurant industry. Its plans for a string of Marvel Mania restaurants have been reduced to only two outlets because of financial problems at the comic-book company.
Pub Date: 2/10/97