Ever since I was a kid, I have been fascinated by themed dining locations. I had many birthday parties at the now-defunct Showbiz Pizza, where robotic animals would serenade pizza munching kids like myself in a showroom just outside of an arcade filled with classic 80′s video games. Regardless of how cheesy the knock off rock n roll songs were, I was always fascinated with the concept. Why would my parents bother going to IHOP when we could get dinner and a show?
Today, I still seek out restaurants where I can be entertained and dine simultaneously. Themed eateries have raised the bar since I was a boy. They now have to compete with theme parks to be more immersive and impress audiences in 2013. One of my favorites in this category is The Jekyll and Hyde Club, which we will examine today.
Located on West 44th in New York City, just steps away from the heart of Times Square, lies one of the most elaborately themed restaurants in the United States. The Jekyll and Hyde Club is a restaurant and bar that feels like an eclectic mix of Disney’s Haunted Mansion and the former Adventurer’s Club at Pleasure Island.
According to legend, Dr. Henry Jekyll performed experiments on himself while he lived in London. Due to an unfortunate series of events, some of the tests he performed turned him into an alter ego – Mr. Hyde. After realizing that his darker side was starting to control his life, he fled to New York City to found this new club.
The first members were scientists, explorers and philosophers who were deemed as outcasts in society and their exploits into science were deemed too unorthodox. After years of being a closed society, they are now open to the public and you can see some of their experiments and findings scattered all over the facility.
Nearly everything on the walls can come to life. As diners munch on classic American fare like burgers, steaks, ribs and fried chicken, various robotic figures come alive and either perform a short comedy routine or talk directly to a table via a series of hidden cameras.
Even this casket located behind the bar comes to life every so often. Take a look at this zombie that popped out and tried to recruit me as a member of the undead!
The rooms are elaborately themed with bookshelves, period chandeliers and fireplaces. They really spared no expense.
Even the restrooms are an adventure. Located in an oversized fireplace, there is a hidden doorknob located in the brick work.
Once through the secret passage, it leads to a gorgeous hallway lined with books and a portrait at the end with eyes that seem to follow you.
Push on a bookshelf and you will find the door to either the men’s or women’s facilities. Be warned: there are NO signs leading to either restroom, so step carefully before you go charging in.
Recently, the restaurant moved from a location from the Avenue of The America’s and into this new one in Time’s Square. As much as I would love to tell you the restaurant is a slam dunk – it’s not.
What I consider my brand here at TPU is to give the reader a little extra something beyond a trip report. I am only as good as what the representatives of the company give me. With Jekyll and Hyde, I walked in a fan and have been several times in years past to their old location. When I had a list of questions that I thought my readers would be interested in, such as hidden details, back stories of characters or even how many robotic figures there are in the restaurant, I received no answer. I did manage to talk to a general manager while I was there – who gave me a lot of “I don’t know’s” and didn’t seem to want to find out either. In the world of customer service, “I don’t know, but I will try and find out” goes a long way.
If it were just how the management and advertising interacted with me, I could skip over it. However, the entire operation seemed to lack professionalism. While taking pictures of the entrance to the club, there were two actors talking to each other for over ten minutes leaning up against the door. Now I am a nerd who writes a blog, ignore me all you like – but their purpose was to get people excited about coming in. They were doing nothing to interact with potential customers passing by during the three separate occasions I happened to be walking past The Jekyll and Hyde Club last week.
It wasn’t just those actors either! Jekyll and Hyde pays a guy to dress in an amazing looking purple top hat and a coat with tails to hand out flyers in Times Square to get people to come down 44th street. Not once did he so much as speak a word to anyone or even move. He stood with his back against a wall on a street corner of 44th and Broadway with his palm towards the sky displaying a stack of cards advertising the club. Not bothering to engage anyone and in New York? That’s not enough to get someone’s attention.
We have and will continue talk a lot about service and how important it is to respect and engage your audience in the themed-entertainment industry. Despite the impressive layout of the club and its clever design, I won’t go back.
Don’t just take it from me, take a look at what reviewers on Yelp and TripAdvisor have to say about The Jekyll and Hyde Club. Nearly every single negative review talks about the service and how it was lacking. In addition, the club charges a $3 per person entertainment fee which is not exactly advertised before walking in and ordering a meal, which many customers find a slap in the face.
Overall, I think they did a great job with theming the location and in terms of restaurants – very few can compete with the amount of detail. However, if they want to stay in business, they need to step up their game and train their staff properly. Enthusiasm and good work ethics can go a long way in a business like this, but it needs to come from the top down.