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Kraft, CBS focus on a concept restaurant

TV, sports will be dual themes on menu

An architectural rendering of the exterior of the three-story CBS-themed restaurant planned for Patriot Place. An architectural rendering of the exterior of the three-story CBS-themed restaurant planned for Patriot Place. (Cambridge Seven Associates Illustration)
Email|Print| Text size + By Jenn Abelson
Globe Staff / December 9, 2007

It's "I Love Lucy" meets Kobe beef burgers in a sleek restaurant just a few yards from Gillette Stadium.

That's the premise of a new concept, known as CBS Scene, being unveiled next fall as a joint partnership between New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and CBS Corp. The 15,000-square-foot restaurant serving upscale grill fare will feature about 130 high-definition televisions, including table-side flat-screens programmed with CBS content ranging from "Late Night with David Letterman" to "The Honeymooners."

The restaurant will sit at the mouth of the stadium as part of the adjacent Patriot Place retail complex under development in Foxborough. Kraft said he initially considered the sports dining venue ESPN Zone for the site, but decided he wanted a fresh concept for the massive new shopping and entertainment center and approached a friend, CBS chief executive Leslie Moonves. ESPN Zone offers a similar set-up, serving grill food with big-screen televisions and nonstop sports coverage.

"We want to be a unique destination. We have a great relationship with CBS, and their network is so much bigger than sports," Kraft said.

CBS Scene is the network's first foray into the restaurant industry, following in the footsteps of other broadcast stations like ESPN and Fox, which each operate restaurant chains. CBS televises most Patriots games and also owns WBCN-FM, the Patriots flagship radio station. The network also airs other major sporting tournaments, including the US Open, the Masters, and the NCAA basketball tournament every March.

On the first floor in Foxborough, CBS Scene will have meeting space and a store selling DVDs of network and classic shows, hats, T-shirts, and other merchandise. There will be dining on the second floor and a bar on the top floor. Architect Cambridge Seven Associates is designing the entire restaurant like a studio, with lighting grids and state-of-the-art monitors, and is equipping the location with satellites and other technology to broadcast live radio and television events.

"It's a way to expand the CBS brand in a great location, and this could be the first of a number of restaurants," Moonves said.

Restaurant analysts say entertainment-themed eateries are very expensive to build and often pass the costs on to consumers with high-priced meals. Some chains, including Planet Hollywood, went bankrupt after expanding too rapidly, and many face challenges with making the restaurants dynamic so that people keep coming back, said Ron Paul, president of Technomic Inc., a restaurant consulting firm in Chicago.

Although ESPN's restaurants average about $12 million per store annually - similar to volume at the popular Cheesecake Factory - ESPN Zone has expanded slowly, with only eight stores and no new openings since 2001, according to Technomic.

"It's not an easy market to crack," Paul said. "But when you're in a cluttered market like casual dining, having something more distinctive is helpful."

The Kraft Group is running the food and operations at CBS Scene and expects to keep costs down by leveraging its buying power with Gillette Stadium, which it also owns.

CBS says content at the restaurant will constantly change, with Grammy and March Madness themes, along with "Survivor" series events and network celebrities using the venue to promote their brand. The televisions at each table will have channels featuring roughly 20-minute segments - so don't expect full-length movies or hourlong dramas. Customers can flip for free through the different channels, like a jukebox, and watch as many as they'd like while they eat.

CBS Scene is expected to open next fall along with the majority of restaurants and merchants at Patriot Place. The first phase of the $350 million project opened last month with the outdoor retailer Bass Pro Shops and several other shops. The 1.3-million-square-foot complex will include other major attractions including a Patriots museum, a sports medicine and healthcare clinic, a 500-seat jazz club, and a high-end movie theater.

Jenn Abelson can be reached at abelson@globe.com.

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