Dino-tainment: Dining with Dinosaurs

In our June 2004 issue (see T-Rex is Coming), we first reported on the new T-Rex restaurant being developed by Steve Schussler, who originally developed Rainforest Café. We have since learned more details about T-Rex.

The restaurants will be multi-level in size from 15,000 to 30,000 square feet, where kids of all ages can dine, shop, dig and explore. Or as Schussler said, "Reality and whimsicality meet to educate, entertain and create." The concept will be built around themes of water, fire and ice. Environments will include waterfalls, geysers, and ice caves that will be enhanced with animatronic dinosaurs.

Schussler believes that "People [will] come first for the wow factor, then come back for the great quality food." Schussler goes on to say that "If a restaurant is heavily themed and a big-box, there's a perception among food critics that the food can't be great." Schussler claims that T-Rex will deliver four-star food with an eclectic menu of entrees prepared three ways - flame seared, heat seared and stone seared - and will include everything from sushi to pizza to vegetarian and vegan dishes (Hey, lots of dinosaurs were vegetarians). The average check is projected to be $17.50.

"Our business plan and mission statement is to keep these (restaurants) at a very low number," Schussler said, unlike the case with Rainforest Café. "I'd rather have this concept be more rare than something that's all over the place." T-Rex concepts are currently planned for Los Angeles, Orlando, Minneapolis, New York City, Kansas City and Las Vegas. The first will open at the Mall of America in May 2005, and the second will follow at the Legend's shopping complex in Kansas City, Kansas.