Hard Rock Cafe International, Inc. is a chain of theme restaurants founded in 1971 by Americans Isaac Tigrett and Peter Morton in London. In 1979, the cafe began covering its walls with rock and roll memorabilia, a tradition which expanded to others in the chain. In 2007, Hard Rock was sold to the Seminole Tribe of Florida, and is headquartered in Orlando, Florida. Currently, there are 191 Hard Rock locations in 59 countries including 145 cafes, 21 hotels and 10 casinos.
Hard Rock Cafe located on Broadway in the heart of Times Square
The first Hard Rock Cafe (HRC) opened on 14 June 1971, in Piccadilly, London, United Kingdom under the ownership of young Americans Peter Morton and Isaac Tigrett. Hard Rock initially had an eclectic decor but it later started to display memorabilia. Hard Rock has amassed one of the largest collections of rock and roll memorabilia in the world. The chain began to expand worldwide in 1982 with locations in (among others) Toronto, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Paris and Berlin. Hard Rock Cafe locations in the United States vary from smaller, more tourist driven markets (Biloxi, Pigeon Forge, Key West, etc.) to large metropolises (Houston, Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Boston, Washington DC, etc.). Hard Rock Cafe typically does not franchise cafe locations in the United States. All US cafes are corporate owned and operated, except for cafes in Tampa and Four Winds New Buffalo casino. However, in the transition of the Las Vegas Hard Rock Hotel property originally owned and then later sold to Rank by founder Peter Morton, Peter retained hotel naming rights West of the Mississippi. When Peter Morton sold his Las Vegas Hard Rock Hotel to the Morgans Group, he also sold those naming rights, which then gave rise to two U.S. franchise Hotels (without cafes) in Albuquerque and Tulsa. The Albuquerque hotel no longer pays for the Hard Rock rights and reverted to its former name in June 2013. More hotels franchised off from Morgan’s are planned for Sioux City and Vancouver.
In 1990, The Rank Group, a London-based leisure company, acquired Mecca Leisure Group and continued expansion of the concept in its geographic territory. Rank went on to purchase Hard Rock America from Peter Morton as well as Hard Rock Canada from Nick Bitove. After the completion of these acquisitions, Rank gained worldwide control of the brand. In March 2007, the Seminole Tribe of Florida acquired Hard Rock Cafe International, Inc. and other related entities from Rank for US$965 million. In 2008, anonymous members of the wait staff criticized the business because of its practice of paying them less than half the official minimum wage in the UK, with the business allocating tips to staff to bring their salaries within the law. Most customers, it was argued, do not realize that they are subsidizing a low wage when they give the tip.