Second Helpings

Recipe for Disaster: If you want to start a restaurant chain these days, it's absolutely necessary to have a "hook." Theme-restaurant pioneers Hard Rock Cafe and Planet Hollywood were among the first to figure this out. They in turn spawned successful copycats like Rainforest Cafe and Harley-Davidson Cafe.

But themes seem to be getting out of hand. I could put up with the New York restaurant that features twins--everyone from busers to hostesses is part of a matched set. (If one twin calls in sick, the other is told not to come in.) I could put up with the place that plays endless Motown music. I could put up with the place that features a cross-dressing Asian staff. I could even put up with a new place that features leather-wearing, whip-wielding dominatrixes--I guess it's for people who like to be told to eat their vegetables. (No, I'm not making these restaurants up.)

But I draw the line at the proposed Crash Cafe. This theme restaurant is the brain child of entrepreneur Patrick Turner. According to a report in Nation's Restaurant News, an industry publication, Baltimore-based Turner wants to create a chain based on such delightful decor touches as "smoking airplane fuselages, clips of train wrecks, exploding buildings and collapsing bridges." Live entertainment will also be a part of the experience. Look for servers trained as stunt persons, who will do things like accidentally "fall" off balconies on their way to their stations. That should aid digestion.

When you think about it, the potentialities of a disaster-themed restaurant are endless. We could tweak the concept especially for Phoenix.

How about a drive-by section, where staff and diners give each other the finger and exchange small-arms fire? How about putting a tent over a few tables and dressing staff in sheriff outfits? During the meal, "officers" could come by and restrain diners by applying choke holds and firing warning shots to their heads. Or how about an Arizona Governors' room? Patrons would have the choice of being called "pickaninnies" or "Japs." Diners would also be encouraged to lend money to staffers, who would fly to France for a luxury two-week vacation, then return and file for bankruptcy.

What about food? The menu practically demands dishes like Hindenburg hamburgers, smoking patties flamed to a crisp; Donner dumplings, fashioned from a "secret" ingredient; and Titanic tacos, designed to sink to your stomach. The chef? He will have been trained at the National Transportation Safety Board.

And the merchandising! The souvenir possibilities are endless: tee shirts with pictures of the Challenger explosion; coffee mugs with photos of Ethiopian famine victims; and leather jackets stamped with "Khmer Rouge" logos.

Restaurateur Turner sees only the upside. Crash Cafe "should appeal to everybody," he said. After all, "your highest-grossing movies are action movies."

Let's hope that Crash Cafe never gets off the ground.

--Howard Seftel

Suggestions? Write me at hseftel@newtimes.com or New Times, P.O. Box 2510, Phoenix,

 
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