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All-Star Cafe Fading in Manhattan

September 29, 2000

NEW YORK (AP) _ They come, they serve up big names and burgers and generally, they go _ only to be replaced by more big names and burgers.

It’s called the Manhattan shuffle, a trend that seems to be occurring across the country as theme restaurants struggle to stay open once their novelty wears off.

The latest victim is the All-Star Cafe. The sports-themed eatery joins a star-studded lineup of fame-and-food joints that have arrived in New York with fanfare in recent years and then quietly died, including the Fashion Cafe, Television City and illusionist David Copperfield’s place, which lost millions without even opening.

``People don’t see any reason to go back,″ said Ron Paul, president of Technomic Inc., a restaurant consulting firm based in Chicago.

``The idea isn’t dead, but to survive they need to offer something new, a reason to come back when you’ve already seen the exhibit,″ he said.

In the latest step in the sandwich shuffle that has become all-too-common in New York, senior executives reportedly marched into the Official All-Star Cafe in Times Square on Tuesday night while patrons were watching Olympic boxing and broke the news that the place was closing.

The restaurant is to be replaced by a Planet Hollywood, a restaurant that has a movie motif and a roster of entertainment industry backers that includes Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone. Planet Hollywood is moving to the Times Square spot from its current home on West 57th Street, said Patty Caruso, a spokeswoman for Planet Hollywood International Inc.

She said the company, which owns both restaurants and is emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, decided that the Times Square site would work better as a Planet Hollywood. ``Times Square is the place to be,″ she said.

And she’s not the only one who thinks so. There are still those ready to jump in and take their chances in the fickle business of fame and food.

Earlier this month, Hard Rock Cafe International announced that it hopes to bring new business by taking the music down from the wall and putting it on stage. Approaching its 30th birthday, the granddaddy of theme restaurants is planning a new emphasis on live music in its 103 restaurants worldwide.

Just a year ago, the World Wrestling Federation opened a theme restaurant in Times Square with the added attraction of a tie-in to television.

``It’s a theme restaurant and a nightclub, we’ve got memorabilia and merchandise, and the place is packed when we do sports events there,″ said WWF spokesman John Porco. ``We’re doing fine.″

Paul suggested Planet Hollywood would have to find a new formula _ perhaps a tie into current movie hits _ if it wants to stay afloat in New York, a city with many great restaurants where food is the star more than motif.

Company spokesman David Breedan said there would be changes, but he declined to reveal them _ yet.

``Planet Hollywood will have a great announcement soon about our restaurant in Times Square,″ he said. ``You’ll just have to wait and see.″

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