I learned on the Tiki Talk blog about Trader Vic’s intention of starting a new line of their restaurants, called Trader Vic’s Mai Tai Bars. They’re scaled-back versions of Trader Vic’s restaurants, featuring a large drink menu, but a very small food menu centered on appetizers, with a few sandwichy-type items. Most notably absent is the hallmark Chinese ovens; these suckers are large and not easy to install, work with, or design around, so while it feels sad to see a Chinese oven-less Trader Vic’s, it does make sense.
In theory, the scaled-back concept could also be installed in smaller locations, which would hopefully be a lower risk to the company and any franchise investors, and could weather the stormy restaurant business a bit better. Most intriguing to me: a smaller size means the decorating budget goes a lot further; sadly, the concept sketches on the Trader Vic’s website look disappointingly bland (although they indicate an intention to have some nice, big tikis at these Mai Tai Bars). A March 2006 article in Nation’s Restaurant News stated that the new Mai Tai Bars are aiming for a 50-50 ratio between food and beverage sales, vs. 60% food to 40% drinks at a typical Trader Vic’s.
As earlier reported on Critiki News, Trader Vic’s Palo Alto relaunched its bar area as a “Mai Tai Bar,” which made no sense at the time — the changes to the space were laughably minimal, the only real change was the addition of a few boring items to the food menu (woodfired pizza?). While I’m still a bit puzzled by the Palo Alto remodel effort, it does make a bit more sense now if they were using it as a sort of test ground for the Mai Tai Bar concept, as an attempt to appeal to an after-work crowd.
Another interesting angle to all this: Palo Alto Trader Vic’s has had some pretty decent live music in the bar area, and it looks like this is another part of the new Mai Tai Bar concept.
The first official Mai Tai Bar has opened just outside of Estepona, Spain; no word yet on what it’s like. Any tiki-lovin’ Spaniards care to report?
- Trader Vic’s new Mai Tai Bar restaurant concept [Tiki Talk]
- Trader Vic’s Mai Tai Bar [Trader Vic’s]
- A new article about Trader Vic’s from Nation’s Restaurant News [Tiki Central]
- Trader Vic’s News: Bar Remodel at Palo Alto, Dallas Rumor [Critiki News]
- Trader Vic’s Mai Tai Bar, Estepona [Critiki]