Rainforest Cafe is a themed restaurant chain owned by Landry's, Inc. of Houston. It was founded by Steven Schussler. The first location opened in the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, on February 3, 1994. By 1997, the chain consisted of six restaurants, all in the United States. The first international location opened in London, England in June 1997. In 1998, it was planned to build 12 additional restaurants in the United States, seven in Mexico, and five in the UK, for a total of 22 restaurants by 2008.
In 2000, the Rainforest Cafe was bought by Landry's Restaurants Inc., a company specializing in dining, hospitality, entertainment, and gaming, based in Houston, Texas. To date, the company owns restaurants in the United States, Canada, France, the United Kingdom, the U.A.E., Japan and India. Rainforest Cafe focuses on local tourism for a majority of their income.
Each Rainforest Cafe restaurant is designed to depict some features of a tropical rainforest, including plant growth; mist; waterfalls; and figures of rainforest animals, including elephants, gorillas, jaguars, snakes, frogs, iguanas, butterflies, and tropical birds. It also includes fish tanks. Most locations also have themed exteriors as well as interiors. The Rainforest Cafe in Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney), Orlando, is located under a large artificial volcano which erupts during the simulated thunderstorms. Others, such as the locations in Atlantic City; Anaheim; and Niagara Falls, New York; have the appearance of ancient jungle ruins, particularly resembling Palenque. Mall locations usually have waterfalls and simulated plant growth outside of them, visible to those who pass in the mall. Nearly all locations have a 'wishing pond', usually with an animatronic crocodile, where guests are invited to toss coins, aiming for the crocodile's mouth.
Some of the restaurants are partitioned into several rooms by means of rain curtains that fall into basins running along the tops of partition walls, rock formations, and curtains of sparse foliage. There are also a few reef fish tanks in each restaurant. Most locations have two tanks connected over the throughway from the gift shop to the restaurant, but at the Walt Disney World locations, three tanks are connected. One portion of most locations includes a bar located underneath an enormous mushroom. The chain is known for its characteristic bar stools, made to resemble the legs of animals, designed and sculpted by the artist Glenn Carter. There is usually a star ceiling in the middle of the restaurant, which are designed and manufactured by Fiber Optic Systems Inc, located in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey.
Rainforest themed merchandise is sold in the gift shop, mostly printed by the Atlanta-based fashion apparel company, Boxercraft Inc. Toys including stuffed toys and action figures of the restaurant mascots are sold as well. Rainforest Cafe also has a set of mascots, called "The Wild Bunch". These characters include Cha! Cha!, the red eye tree frog; Iggy, the iguana; Nile, the crocodile; Rio, a macaw; Maya, the jaguar; Tuki, the elephant; Bamba, the gorilla; Ozzie, the orangutan. These eight characters may be represented on children's menus, merchandise, or the company logo.
To enhance the theme, some of the animals are animatronic, manufactured by Russells Creative, LLC of Apopka, Florida, formerly UCFab International. Nearly all locations have elephants, tigers, gorillas, jaguars, snakes, and crocodiles. Elephants are typically found in a pair consisting of an adult and young. Like most animatronics, these face diners from a raised area off a wall. Tigers are a relatively new addition to Rainforest Cafe, and they are normally found in groups of four, with a male, female, and two cubs. The male stands up high on a rock, while the female reclines beside it. Gorillas are the most numerous of the animatronics, and there are usually four or five gorillas in each restaurant. Each group usually has a silverback, a baby hanging from a tree, and one or two other gorillas which are sometimes leaning on palm trees which they shake during their motion sequences. Jaguars may not be found at every location, but they are generally perched on a high ledge or tree with their tail and one forelimb hanging down. Snakes are mostly positioned at the entrance of the retail village, wrapped around a branch and greeting guests from above. Crocodiles are located in a wishing pond or waterfall either outside or just inside the shop, where guests are invited to toss coins at them. At the Opry Mills location, there is a hippopotamus in place of a crocodile. Each location usually has multiple butterflies which have animatronic flapping wings as well. The descriptions of these animatronic animals is not always the case at every location though, and will vary slightly to dramatically by individual restaurant, for example, Rainforest Cafe in Disney Springs has a family of four jaguars on a high ledge, as well as the more typical jaguar in the gift shop.
Rainforest Cafe serves food ranging from seafood, beef, and chicken to pastas and pizzas.
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