Looking back at 50 years of the Hard Rock Cafe

Editor – Ticket Monthly is a CNN travel magazine that covers some of the most exciting topics in the travel world. In August, we’re going back in time to revisit some of the best retro travel experiences.

(CNN) — Before becoming an internationally known chain, the Hard Rock Cafe was a single restaurant in London.

Created by two American businessmen, Peter Morton and Isaac Tigrett, it opened its doors in 1971. Morton is an entrepreneur – his father founded the famous American chain Morton’s Steakhouse.

London has no shortage of restaurants or museums. But the beauty of Hard Rock is that it combines both.

In the 1960s, “Swinging London” was the coolest city in the world, so anything that happened there – even if it was related to the music scene – quickly became headlines around the world.

If the British restaurant was a strange idea adopted by Americans, Morton and Tigrett leaned on their backs before running away from it.

Hard Rock became a symbol of post-World War II America. The table was full of burgers, fries and milkshakes, red and white.

It’s about an analogy, the kind of idealism, America that has more pop culture like “Happy Days” than real life.

But it did.

Half a century later, the Hard Rock Cafe brand is more than restaurants and hotels.

Depending on who you ask, it could be a perfect nirvana for music lovers or a corny restaurant selling produce. Either way, the brand has firmly established its legacy.

Aerosmith presented Les Paul with a guitar birthday cake at the Hard Rock in New York City.

Aerosmith presented Les Paul with a guitar birthday cake at the Hard Rock in New York City.

Ed Bailey/AP

Enter the “rock” at Hard Rock

Every Hard Rock is filled with memorable songs, many of which are contributed by the stars themselves.

As the story goes, Eric Clapton, a regular at the London outpost, handed over one of his Fender guitars and asked the staff to put it on the wall near where he wanted to live. Not to be outdone, The Who’s Pete Townshend donated one of his guitars as well.

Merchandise has become a central part of the brand, not just on the walls. After all, a man can only eat one cheeseburger at a time, but he can buy a bunch of souvenirs at a time.

As Hard Rock says, a London restaurant has agreed to sponsor a local football team and put their logo on the team’s jerseys. After that, the idea for custom shirts was born and the first ones were available for sale in 1974.

It took the restaurant a full decade to expand internationally. A Los Angeles store, the first in the US, opened in 1982. Locations in Tokyo, Paris, Athens, Hong Kong, New York City and more.

There are also many Hard Rock Cafes, where local and international musicians can perform.

Best practices for opening new members are often included.

Paul and Linda McCartney’s band Wings were tapped to play the opening night of London’s West End venue, while jazz legend BB King founded the Hard Rock Beijing in 1994.

Chinese soldiers march past the Hard Rock Beijing in the 1990s.

Chinese soldiers march past the Hard Rock Beijing in the 1990s.

Greg Baker/AP

However, famous rock stars are not the only ones who appear in restaurants and casinos.

For Jesse Dracman, who has worked at the Hard Rock Cafe Surfers Paradise in Australia’s Gold Coast region for two years, he has had the opportunity to engage diners in conversation – from celebrities to ordinary people – this is one of the fun parts of the job. .

“I tried to treat every customer the same,” he said. “One time there was this old lady who was just eating there so I started talking to her.

Among the famous customers that he did his best to treat like ordinary people are Vince Neil, Jimmy Barnes and Gene Simmons.

Now, Hard Rock’s most popular artists aren’t just musicians.

In 2021, Lionel Messi signed up as a global brand ambassador. Menus added a “Messi Burger” in his honor.
Funk Band the Bar-Kays perform at Hard Rock Memphis in 2014.

Funk Band the Bar-Kays perform at Hard Rock Memphis in 2014.

Gareth Patterson/Invision for Hard Rock International/AP

The way of the superfans

One day, Lou Nuccio went to New York City from his hometown of Bayonne, New Jersey to have lunch with his father.

“I eat at this crazy place with my dad. They have a Cadillac that comes out of the yard and it’s really nice,” he said.

That crazy place, of course, is the Hard Rock Cafe, located on 57th Street in the heart of midtown Manhattan.

Since then, Nuccio has been involved. He saw Solid Rocks wherever he traveled in his work at a technical company. At each, he picks up one of the commemorative pins that the brand sells. He said now there are about 6,500 of them.

However, the sense of fun and community that Nuccio found at Hard Rock didn’t go beyond the restaurants themselves until the advent of social media.

Nuccio created a Facebook page, HRC Worldwide Community. On top of that, he shared personal photos and reviews of the various outposts he visited, along with information about upcoming events. He has more than 10,000 followers from all over the world.

“Community is built around gatherings and adventures,” he said. “I’m both. But (collectors) are the ones who make the engine go. Big milestones are what people want. You get a special pin. If you visit 25 restaurants, you get you’re a milestone pin.”

In addition to pins, many fans collect shooting glasses and T-shirts.

Some big Hard Rocks organize swaps where superfans come and meet each other. Nuccio also visits many objects and documents them on his website, posting pictures to fellow collectors.

Being a mega-fan, especially one with a large network behind, has its advantages. On his most recent trip to London, Nuccio got a private tour of the basement of the “rock store,” where rare items like some of John Lennon’s favorite military uniforms are kept.

Paul McCartney and Linda McCartney played Wings at the London pub in the '80s.

Paul McCartney and Linda McCartney played Wings at the London pub in the ’80s.

Evening Standard Images/Hulton Archive/Getty

After lights out

Since 1971, the lives of the founders have gone in different directions. They broke up in 1979 and ended up dividing the brand between them, with each founder responsible for certain parts of the world where he could find and produce Hard Rocks again.

Regarding the feud, Tigrett told Texas Monthly in 1987 that Morton was a “money maker” and wanted to work on the brand’s social side. Morton only told the magazine “I’m going to go into my own business.”

In 2007, Morton and Tigrett sold the company to the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Currently, the family owns more than 180 Hard Rock restaurants, cafes, hotels and casinos.

Morton lives in Los Angeles, where he is a filmmaker. His son Harry Morton opened a Mexican restaurant called Pink Taco and owned it until his death in 2019 at the age of 38.
Meanwhile, Tigrett moved away from the light. After the death of his wife Mo Starkey – who was previously married to Beatles drummer Ringo Starr, and Tigrett was called his “collection”. – He spent time living in India and is said to be a devotee of the late guru Sathya Sai Baba.
He is a board member of the Divine Will Foundation. According to the site’s website, it supports hospitals and food programs in India, the United States and elsewhere.

Although representatives from Seminole Gaming declined interview requests from CNN, the brand’s website says there are some Hard Rocks in development in China.

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