Hard Rock Cafe has finally flung open its doors in Almaty this weekend. After making a soft entrance in November and becoming the only location of the international brand in Kazakhstan and the entire Central Asia, the iconic American restaurant was finally ready to announce: “We are officially in the city and everyone should know about us."
The ribbon-cutting ceremony held in a big stadium alongside a rocking performance of two notorious Russian bands – Mashina Vremeni and Mumiy Troll – in fact had not ribbon to cut. Instead, along the hard rock fashion, the restaurant marked its successful entrance to the Central Asian stage by smashing a guitar.
“This is the way: in different places when you do an opening you might cut a ribbon, in the Hard Rock manner this is what we do, we get a guitar, we smash it," Kane Moore, Hard Rock Director of Operations for Eurasia, who came to Almaty for the opening, said. He assured though that Hard Rock Cafe not only used guitars for smashing openings but also donated a lot of guitars as charity.
The Almaty branch of the international network comprising 200 cafes in 64 countries is housed in a luxurious three-story venue that was developed by Orlando-based Hard Rock Cafe designers together with Kazakhstani designers.
Each Hard Rock Cafe around the world may look differently, but its quality standards are the same everywhere, including in Kazakhstan, Anibal Lorden, Area Vice President Europe Middle East and Africa/South Asia, said in an interview to Tengrinews.
The Almaty restaurant is a franchising operation where foreign partners regularly visit Kazakhstan to train local staff and make sure that quality standards are upheld.
As custom for the brand, the walls of the Almaty venue are covered in memorabilia obtained from famous musicians, making it a music museum. This creates the unique atmosphere that the brand is famous for.
The Almaty restaurant has 89 items on display, including Rihanna's exquisite bra, Michael Jackson's black loafers, guitars from AC/DC and Aerosmith, a sewn jacket from Elvis Presley, Eric Clapton's tuxedo and one of the suits Red Hot Chili Peppers wore in Banksy-directed film Exit Through the Gift Shop.
According to Anibal Lorden, when selecting memorabilia for the Almaty venue a lot of attention was given to making the collection relevant, getting it to hold items representing different types of rock and reflect the rock history line – items range from the 50s and 60s to nowadays.
Although no items from Kazakhstani bands are yet on the walls alongside the things worn or played by iconic artists, Almaty-based Hard Rock is exploring the Kazakhstani music market and handpicking local talents for its nights.
The place also boasts a shop selling Hard Rock branded rock 'n' roll-inspired items, including some collectables designed specifically for Almaty.
“It's a live entertainment destination, people just gravitate towards us," Kane Moore said.
The network has a policy of having one Cafe per city, so it is all set for Almaty, but Astana will most likely be the next location in Kazakhstan, and soon.
Speaking about the global plans Antonio Bautista, Senior Vice President for Franchise Cafe Development and Operations of Hard Rock International said: “We expect to continue growing at the rate of 10 restaurants a year."
Plans for the region are to open the restaurants in Tbilisi, Georgia and Baku, Azerbaijan, and also to get into St. Petersburg making it the second location in Russia after Moscow.
As for Kazakhstan's Astana, it is going to see an influx of people in 2017 and Hard Rock Cafe wants to ride the wave. “We are looking for the right place and right city, and Astana is one of the cities that is on our radar. We need to find a proper location for it, but we think that Astana is a great market for us. We will try to do it before the EXPO 2017," Anibal Lorden said.