Cartoon Saloon was a theme restaurant that I created in the mid 90’s with fellow entrepreneur Ray Noble. The flagship location opened in Fort Lauderdale Florida in September of 1996. With a skeleton crew, my credit cards, and $75,000 in cash we hand built a 5,000 square foot, 200+ seat theme restaurant and bar.
5,000 people showed up for the Grand Opening. The police had to close the street that the restaurant was on to control the traffic. Press included every local TV station The Howard Stern Show and numerous local radio stations. We sold out of food and liquor that we thought would last 10 days on opening night.
Here’s a copy of the article just in case the link rots.
THE BUSINESS OF EATING
Can a cartoon entrepreneur with no food experience use a restaurant as a platform to launch a cast of cartoon characters he has created? Justin Taddeo is about to find out.
As they say in comic books: “AARGH! # Detected. #! ZAP!?! WHAM? # Detected. #!” Ten days ago, Taddeo – who has had no restaurant experience – opened the Cartoon Saloon at 1670 E. Oakland Park Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale.
The 240-seat restaurant’s menu includes the traditional array of burgers, pizzas and chicken dishes, along with a full bar, a dance floor and a high-energy sound system.
Taddeo owned a chain of comic book stores in New York City and has worked in marketing jobs for Marvel Comics and for Boca Raton’s Big Entertainment.
And with help from partners and investors, Taddeo created six cartoon characters, which he hopes some day will be featured on film and in books and with action figures.
But for now, the group stars at the Cartoon Saloon.
“The theme restaurant industry has been fantastic for the past five years,” the 27-year-old Taddeo said.
“But up to now, the comic/cartoon theme has been horribly unaddressed. Comic books are a dying industry. And I saw a chance to launch my characters in a booming industry,” he said.
Cartoon Saloon houses a memorabilia shop containing $250,000-worth of collectibles, including rare 1940s-vintage comic books. The shop is run by Tropic Comics, one of the largest character-related merchandise and comics retailers in the Southeast.
It has interactive displays, cartoons on video screens around the restaurant and a menu designed to look like a comic book. Eventually Cartoon Saloon will sponsor an in-house team of actors performing skits as Taddeo’s characters.
Industry analyst Raj Chaudhry said Taddeo’s hopes for his restaurant recall such concepts as Planet Hollywood, Hard Rock Cafe and Rainforest Cafe – where founder Steve Schussler sold investors by setting up a small-scale version of the restaurant in his living room.
“There certainly is room for entrepreneurs who have a vision in this segment, but the risks are tremendous,” Chaudhry said.
The cost to open a Cartoon Saloon outlet is $500,000, Taddeo said, compared with the $5 million or more cost quoted by his larger competitors. He credits savvy marketing deals and dedication by management with helping keep costs down.
Taddeo’s goal for Cartoon Saloon is to make $6.5 million per unit through food and bar operations, admissions, on-site retail sales and catalog sales.
He plans to open four more Cartoon Saloons next year, in West Palm Beach, Miami’s South Beach, New York City and Orlando. All will be company-owned because Cartoon Saloon is not set up to offer franchises, Taddeo said.