T-Rex restaurant

MINNEAPOLIS-Schussler Creative, the founder and creator of Rainforest Café, and RED Development have teamed up with ambitious plans to open 40 new entertainment-themed restaurants and retail stores across the country in the next six years at a cost of about $100 million. These concepts, born in Schussler’s retail entertainment laboratory in Minneapolis, include America’s Roadhouse, Hot Dog Hall of Fame, Winter Wonderland, Aerobleu and others.

The developer has agreed to add Schussler’s new concepts to its retail developments. However, what’s unusual about this pairing is that RED is taking an ownership role in the new restaurant concepts, even in those that are built in competing retail centers.

“Here’s a developer that’s not egotistical,” says Steven Schussler, CEO of the namesake company. “They have a lot of money and expertise and they’re interested in opening in malls outside of their own.”

A spokesman for RED says there are two reasons for the partnership. “One, as the developer, it lets us put some skin in the game,” the spokesman tells GlobeSt.com. “We’re able to put our money where our mouth is. And we get to reap the rewards by helping create a strong restaurant brand.”

The men say the new restaurant concepts will be installed at RED developments, including the planned 800,000-sf Legends at Sparks Marina in Sparks, NV and is already in operation at the Legends at Village West, an 866,000-sf retail center that opened in Kansas City, KS in April 2006. One new project is a restaurant called T-Rex, which features a dinosaur theme, and has a Build-A-Bear-type store out front that allows children to make their own terrible lizard. Schussler has a partnership in the concept with Landry, to which it sold its Rainforest Café restaurants.

Coming up with eatery ideas at his Minneapolis lab is part creativity and a lot of capital, Schussler says. “No one out there wants to spend money to come up with these. They take research and development. That’s what I do; I spend money on R&D. That return takes time,” he tells GlobeSt.com.