There’s no Elvis Presley-branded theme restaurant in the King’s hometown of Memphis, or anywhere else in the U.S., for that matter. But a handful of Elvis American Diners now operates in Israel and Eastern Europe. How come this can’t-miss concept—it taps into a massive fan base—is only being franchised overseas?
Elvis Presley died in 1977, but he remains a tourist draw of prodigious portions. His devoted followers still flock in huge numbers to Graceland in Memphis, and the Viva Elvis! Cirque de Soleil show in Las Vegas continues to pack in patrons 18 months after its debut. When it comes to extending brand longevity into the afterlife, Elvis can’t be beat.
Elvis Presley Enterprises, which administers affairs related to the singer’s estate, keeps a tight leash on how Presley’s name and image are used, even 34 years after his death. That extends to restaurants. There have been a couple attempts made at running Elvis-themed restaurants on downtown Memphis’ Beale Street strip, but neither was a long-term success. Those who make the pilgrimage to Graceland today have their choice of three restaurants located in Graceland Plaza: Chrome Grille, Rockabilly’s Diner and Shake, Split & Dip. They’re Elvis-ish, but not pure Elvis.
Yet there has been an Elvis themed-restaurant operating in Israel since 1974. It’s located on the main highway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem at Neve Ilan.
Recently, Elvis Presley Enterprises targeted the eastern and central regions of Europe as potential expansion territory. Here’s how the company describes the project:
“Elvis themed restaurants are coming to Eastern and Central Europe! Elvis Presley Enterprises Inc. has licensed the EAD International Group for the project. The restaurants, called "Elvis American Diners," will feature décor inspired by the King of Rock 'n' Roll. Possible locations include Albania, Macedonia, Serbia, Georgia, Lithuania, Latvia, Ukraine, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Czech Republic, Romania, Greece, Turkey and Russia.
“The concept of the Elvis Presley® legacy is presented through the decor, artwork, food and music providing an overall ‘feel’ of oldies American culture. The artwork, food selections and music will present an American dining experience.”
So far, the franchising push has seen two additional Elvis American Diners open their doors. Both are located in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, the country situated between Russia and Turkey on the Black Sea. One unit is located in the National Philharmonic Building in Tbilisi, the second in that city’s amusement park. A third unit, also in Tbilisi, is scheduled to open soon.
Interested? EAD is selling Elvis Presley Diner franchises. But you’ll have to be an operational whiz to run one of these places. One version of the concept offers a two-story dining area whose bottom floor is a food-court like set-up that offers multiple serving stations. The options include the American Grill (burgers, chicken sandwiches, fish sandwiches, fries et al); NY Pizza (pizzas, calzones, focaccias); Italian & Salads (pastas including ravioli and tagliatelle with assorted salads); Sandwiches (chicken, roast beef and ham, sub-style); Thai (“various Thai dishes prepared a la carte in front of the client”); Sushi Bar (just like it sounds); Desserts (all made in-house, even the ice cream); and Delivery (any and all of the above ferried to customers’ homes and offices). The franchisee can mix and match anywhere from four to seven of these mini concepts.
If this wasn’t complicated enough, the second floor houses a full-service restaurant where customers order off the menu.
That’s just one of the service models being proposed by rights holder EAD International. The company is also pushing a stripped-down model dubbed the EAD Beach Bar and an EAD Food Station it deems suitable for shopping malls, airports, parks and the like. Potential operators who want to swing for the fences can franchise an EAD Elvis City. It includes an Elvis drive-through restaurant, a convenience store and playgrounds.
Will it work? Our knowledge of this part of the world is miniscule, but we know that smart operators who pioneer restaurant concepts in off-the-beaten-path foreign countries often make a bundle. For its part, EAD notes that cultural shifts in this part of the world and an increase in disposable income are driving an interest in all things American. Much as watching the news makes it seem like the rest of the world hates America, fascination with American culture and food abounds. If you’re looking to do something completely different and are in the market for a restaurant-based business adventure, owning one of these franchises could provide it. You can find out more at http://www.elvisamericadiner.com/franchise. Be sure to think about your exit strategy before signing on the dotted line.