Getting a slice of the pie that is known as the restaurant business and being noticed is not always about the food served, or even the quality of same. Though a quality meal is very important in terms of building repeat business, it is attracting people and getting them in the door which starts that process. This means restaurateurs need something else to gain patrons and that means they need a “gimmick” or a unique theme. This has to be something that sets them apart and makes people want to come and see just what they’re all about. If the cuisine is good and the idea different then the restaurant may just succeed.
Before we get into the nut & bolts of this piece be warned that some of these venues and fare are not for the faint of heart. As you will note, certain themes truly border on well, extremely out there in the weird genre. Some however are just funny. From our research it appears that not much is off limits in terms of attracting eaters. Join us and let’s journey to ten of the world’s weirdest restaurant themes.
10. Barbie Café, Taipei Taiwan
The US toymaker Mattel has licensed the Taiwan restaurant group Sinlaku to operate the Barbie café. Mattel chose Taiwan as theme restaurants are very popular and successful there. Here, thinking pink is the name of the game.
It’s pretty much the color of everything–the shade of the walls, menus, booths and chairs even most of the food is pink. It is staffed by waitresses dressed in bright pink and who wear tiaras, while the chairs are dressed in tutus. The restaurant also sells select Mattel products.
9. DS Music Restaurant (medical theme) – Taiwan
If you are looking for a different kind of dining experience then this is just what the doctor ordered. Waitresses, dressed like nurses administer “shots” of booze, squirted from a syringe directly into your mouth.
The entire restaurant carries the medical theme, with bathrooms marked, “emergency room” and wheelchairs and crutches are a part of the décor. The nurses outfits are not tailored to be especially sexy, and the curtained-off “intensive care unit” is nothing more than a place where large groups can sit together but I do not think I would bring young children to this venue.
8.Vampire Cafe – Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo is the home of the Gothic Vampire Café. The restaurant is decorated with bloody references, red velvet walls, blood cells on the carpets and floors, red thrones for seating and even a red aperitif garnished with tiny skulls for drinking.
Vampires are your servers, and severed body parts greet you everywhere. Coffins are scattered throughout the premises, (some with draculas occasionally popping out of them) and flickering candelabras are everywhere. Baroque music plays throughout the establishment. Word is the food is good and you can sink your teeth into it (I couldn’t resist.)
7. Heart Attack Grill – Las Vegas, USA
Many Americans go for the gusto of huge portions. The Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas caters to that urge to gorge by serving obscene portions. Here you can dine on huge burgers and fries that are deep-fried in lard.
All diners are given hospital style gowns before chowing down on a “a quadruple bypass burger”. That is made with four beef patties and 20 slices of bacon and it is served by waitresses dressed as nurses who will help you out of the restaurant in a wheel chair if necessary. In a city known for gambling I’m not sure the odds of a healthy meal survival here are very good.
6. Fortezza Medicea – Volterra, Italy
Getting a seat in this famous restaurant will require a background check by the Ministry of Justice in Rome plus entering through its gates involves surrendering all belongings and clearing multiple checkpoints. It is staffed almost entirely by inmates. That’s because Fortezza Medicea is a prison, housing murders, thieves, and Mafia members. Despite this, the restaurant inside the Fortress is routinely over booked. The food is prepared and served by a team of convicts; some, like the head chef, are doing time for murder. This is why the dining area is under strict surveillance and is patrolled by numerous guards to ensure safety. Utensils are also made of plastic as an extra precaution. Still despite all the dangers of sharing space with men with histories of violence, the restaurant is a very popular attraction, proving that when it comes to good food people’s background don’t matter.
5. Cat Café Nekorobi – Tokyo, Japan
Now this is an unusual, or shall we say different, way to have a coffee break. Nekorobi is a hip cat café located in the entertainment district of Ikebukuro where you can spend time with friends of the feline kind. Patrons enter through modern glass doors into a dimly lit joint where cats prowl and sprawl out, and where a drinks dispenser vending machine offers a variety of hot and cold beverages including coffee, royal milk tea, green tea, and instant miso soup.
Visit in the evening and you’ll have a chance to witness the dinnertime ritual where the kitties feast on cat food in glass food bowls arranged in a circle around a floor lamp. For feline lovers, this place is no doubt the “cat’s meow.”
4. Twin Stars Diner – Moscow, Russia
Apparently, it takes two at one Russian restaurant, Moscow’s Twin Stars Diner, where all of the servers and bartenders are sets of identical twins who also have to dress alike on the job. The toughest part of executing this “two of a kind” idea was finding enough qualified pairs of twins to hire, according to owner, Alexei Khodorkovsky. He explained the twins concept is based on a 1960s Soviet-era film, “Kingdom of Crooked Mirrors”, in which a young woman “befriends” her own reflection in a mirror.
3. Baggers – Nuremberg, Germany
This futuristic eatery specializes in “roller-coaster service.” There are no waiters. Guests place their orders via a touch-screen computer at each table. When the food is ready, it rides to the table along a twisting track of rails from the kitchen above. The rope-lighting changes colors and flashes on and off to let you know the dishes are about to come through.
Main dishes often have sparklers attached as they come down the rails. A little colored flag attached to each dish lets you quickly spot whether it’s yours or not. Most entrees came out in one or two little pots. Underneath the rail system on each table is an enormous “lazy susan” containing plates, bowls, napkins, silverware, and a bottle opener. The section to the right of the plates is also where you put empty pots, used plates and staff from the restaurant come by periodically to empty it out.
2. El Diablo Restaurant- Teguise, Spain
A volcano might not be the most conventional way to cook food, but at theTimanfaya National Park on the island of Lanzarote off the coast of Spain, that’s exactly how they cook at El Diablo Restaurant. Named after “the devil,” the eatery has been in business since 1970. Diners can choose from a variety of meat and fish dishes barbecued on a grill heated to between 450 to 500 degrees Celsius using geothermal heat from the volcano.
Because it was impossible to build a conventional cooking system that could withstand the heat of a volcano, architects Eduardo Caceres and Jesus Soto used nine layers of volcanic basalt rock to make the grill. The”Montañas del Fuego,” or Fire Mountains, were created in the early 18th century when more than 100 volcanoes sprung up on the island. Because the rainfall is low there is hardly any erosion, so most of the landscape looks the way it did in 1824, the date of the last volcanic eruption.
1. Modern Toilet – Taipei City, Taiwan Province, People’s Republic of China
The idea for this odd restaurant was conceived by one of the owners while he was reading while sitting—where else?—on a toilet. Initially it only sold chocolate ice cream in containers shaped like a squat toilet, but once the humorous spin became a great success, a full-fledged, bathroom-themed eatery emerged. Today, Modern Toilet is a chain with locations across Asia and it has plans for further expansion. If the idea piques your curiosity, drop in to have a seat at one of the (non-working) toilets where meals are served in toilet bowl-shaped dinnerware.
There is now also a series of Magic Restroom Cafes in the Los Angeles area. Inspired by its success Magic Restroom owner YoYo Li has introduced toilets as seats and a mix of Asian and western food – like zha jiang mian, named “constipation” on the menu, braised pork over rice, (“smells-like-poop”), and sundaes (choose from chocolate “black poop” or the vanilla-strawberry sundae “bloody number two”) served, of course, in miniature toilet bowls. Revolting and distrubing in equal measure.