Erika Engle

Restaurant industry
abuzz with two big
openings in the offing

Jackie's Kitchen and Cheesecake Factory are mere weeks away from opening and employee recruitment efforts have boosted the buzz.

Jackie's is named after international film star, recording artist and philanthropist Jackie Chan. The 150-seat restaurant bearing his name and likeness at Ala Moana Center will be his first on U.S. soil, but not his last. There are 40 international locations, primarily in Asia.

Cheesecake Factory is well-known around the mainland and its long-awaited first Hawaii location will open Dec. 10 at the Royal Hawaiian Shopping center. The 600-seat Hawaii store will be the biggest in the chain, which will be 70 restaurants strong with Monday's opening in Arlington, Va.

Both restaurants cite a large turnout of applicants.

Jackie's Kitchen has received between 300 and 400 applications, according to Robert Cortes, development partner and general manager. The restaurant expects to hire 90 to 100 full- and part-time employees from dishwashers to managers. A bartender audition this week -- with bottles flipping, an auditioner pouring a cocktail into a glass on his head and other fol-de-rol -- resembled a scene from the 1980s movie "Cocktail" starring Tom Cruise and Bryan Brown, Cortes said.

He hopes to have the hiring completed by the second week of November for the restaurant's opening the first week of December.

There are conflicting reports as to whether the restaurant's namesake will be at the opening. "I've got this straight from the horse's mouth that we're definitely going to bring him down," Cortes said. "We're definitely getting him for a great event, a huge event ... everyone will get a chance to see him," but whether he makes it for the actual opening gala depends on Chan's movie commitments.

U.S. expansion is already being planned, with talks under way for possible leases in "high tourist, good local mix areas," such as Maui and Las Vegas, Cortes said.

The company has received volumes of interest. "We're able to pick and choose," said Cortes.

At Cheesecake Factory, the food and the restaurant's reputation have the celebrity status, especially the cheesecakes on which the restaurant was built. Its origins as a cheesecake bake shop date back to Detroit in the 1940s. The first restaurant opened in L.A. in 1978.

"I'm based in Los Angeles, but I love it out here and I have friends that live here and they've been asking for such a long time when we're opening here. We're finally going to be doing that," said Howard Gordon, senior vice president of business development and marketing for Cheesecake Factory.

The restaurant will employ about 350 people in Honolulu once the hiring process is completed. It has set up offices on the second floor of the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center and provides application information at 924-5001.

The Cheesecake Factory earns revenue not just from diners, but from companies that advertise in its 36-page menu.

Ads are sold by Dynamic Menu Design Inc., which does business as Menu Dynamics with offices in California and Massachusetts.

"We've handled Cheesecake Factory for 23 years now and we started with them when they had a single location," said Richard Mead, company president.

The plastic, spiral-bound menu has 16 pages for full-page, four-color display ads. For $9,200 you too can have an ad page for six months, or at a 15 percent discount for an annual run. Even if all those pages are taken by advertisers getting the annual discount, that's a quarter of a million dollars a year to defray menu printing costs. Smart.

Advertisers are usually retailers, or lifestyle-type businesses. Existing advertisers get first right of refusal and Mead says a high number of advertisers renew.

"We were in your lovely market several times in the course of the past year. To be frank with you, there's more demand than we could accommodate."

The 200-item menu and its advertising will be unveiled along with the restaurant.

Both restaurants will open with the de rigeur benefit fund-raising nights prior to grand openings for the public, though the charities have not been named.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at:


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