Rainforest Cafe is a themed restaurant chain owned by Landry’s Restaurants, Inc. of Houston, Texas. It was founded by entrepreneur Steven Schussler. The first location opened in the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota on February 3, 1994. In 1997, the chain consisted of only six restaurants, all in the United States. In 1998, the plan was to build 10 additional restaurants in the United States, seven in Mexico and five in the UK over 10 years.
In 2000, the Rainforest Cafe was bought by Landry’s Restaurants Inc., a company theme restaurant chain, based in Houston, Texas. To date the company owns 27 restaurants in the United States, three in Mexico, two in Canada, and one each in France, the United Kingdom, and Japan. The chain focuses on establishing a presence in larger cities and shopping malls, capitalizing on local tourism.
Each Rainforest Cafe restaurant is designed to depict some features of a rainforest, including plant growth, mist, waterfalls, animatronic robots of animals and insects. To enhance this theme, the restaurants are populated by animatronic figures, manufactured by UCFab International, LLC of Apopka, Florida. The star ceilings are designed and manufactured by Fiber Optic Systems Inc, located in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey.
Large marine aquariums are common in most restaurants. Automated water sprinklers and synchronized lights set to specific patterns are also featured. A simulated thunderstorm occurs every thirty minutes, utilizing simulated rain as well as flashing lights and high-powered subwoofers for lightning and thunder. There is a tree usually located in the gift shops named Tracy that talks and gives information on rainforests.
The restaurants are partitioned into several rooms by means of rain curtains that fall into basins running along the tops of partition walls and booths. The Rainforest Cafe serves food ranging from seafood, beef, and chicken to pastas and pizzas, as well as its award-winning crab dip. There is also the tradition of yelling, “Volcano!” when somebody orders a “volcano” sundae.
The staff of Rainforest Cafe are named in accordance with the safari theme. Servers are called Safari Guides, hosts/hostesses are Tour Guides, retail sales associates are Pathfinders, bartenders are Navigators, bussers are Safari Assistants and kitchen staff are named Trailblazers. Rainforest Cafe restaurants have a retail village, where rainforest themed merchandise is sold.