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Casinos and hotels: Hard Rock takes on a new beat

From Richard Quest, CNN
updated 12:18 PM EDT, Mon August 27, 2012
  • Hard Rock has a music memorabilia collection consisting of more than 70,000 pieces
  • The first Hard Rock opened in London in 1971, today it has 139 cafes worldwide
  • The franchise is expanding into hotels and casinos, it currently has 16 such venues

(CNN) -- The Hard Rock Cafe franchise, famed for its rock'n'roll memorabilia, is expanding its reach into hotels and casinos -- but its chief executive says the brand will remain "special."

"We don't want to be in every street corner, in every city of the UK," Hard Rock's Hamish Dodds told CNN.

"We want to have a few very special locations, and keep it special," the 55-year-old Scotsman said from his office in Orlando, Florida.

The first Hard Rock Cafe opened in London in 1971, and in the 1980s the company expanded globally. It now has more than 175 venues across 53 countries.

The franchise is famous for its large music memorabilia collection, consisting of more than 70,000 pieces rotated through its restaurants.

Hard Rock's ambition, according to its website, is to provide "the world's most comprehensive visual history of rock 'n' roll."

Some of the company's musical treasures include Jimi Hendrix's Flying V guitar, John Lennon's handwritten lyrics to "Help" and one of Madonna's classic bustiers.

The company is now expanding from its cafe base into the hotel and casino market. It already has 10 hotels and six hotels with casino facilities across the U.S., Asia and Latin America -- but is yet to establish a hold in the European market.

Breaking into such markets has been extremely time consuming, Dodds said. "Gaming in particular is an incredibly good business but it's very difficult. It's highly regulated, there are only certain markets you can go to, " he said. "It's very difficult in terms of barriers to entry."

Dodds believes there is still scope to expand the cafe business globally -- and he's hoping to add one of the world's biggest cities to the list of cafes. "You know, I think there are always little parts of our empire that we haven't quite been able to nail ...but Sao Paolo's one that I think I'd like to get in to," he said.

CNN's Stina Backer contributed to this report

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