Written by John Yan
on 12/19/2003 for
From the ages of 12 to 17, I worked at my parent’s restaurant. I can’t say it was a fun experience and it certainly turned me off of food services. Yet, it didn’t stop me from trying out Enlight’s restaurant simulator, The Restaurant. The food service tycoon game was intriguing and I happily took up the invitation to try out the game.
The Restaurant was originally titled Restaurant Empire. The change was due to being able to secure a license to put Rocco Dispirito on the cover and renaming the game to the title of the show. Other than the name change, Rocco doesn’t appear in the game anywhere and it’s really just there for marketing purposes. So if you’re a fan of the show and hoping to be Rocco or manage one of his restaurants, you’ll be disappointed. I hope the license does help it get some more sales to this game cause The Restaurant is actually a fun tycoon game.
There are two modes to The Restaurant: sandbox and campaign. The sandbox mode just lets you run a restaurant without any goals or end. So instead of covering that, I’ll delve more into the campaign mode as it will cover both areas. As Armand LeBoeuf, you’re straight out of culinary school and looking to succeed in the restaurant business. Visiting your uncle, you find out he’s given up his restaurant and that it’s been closed for a year or so now because of a corporation trying to monopolize the business driving out other local businesses. You convince your uncle to let you re-open the restaurant and if you meet a few goals, the restaurant is yours. So you are asked to jump in and manage the restaurant from the finances to hiring staff to cooking the cuisine. You’ll even be asked to decorate the restaurant inside and out. The game gives you plenty of areas to tinker with and try and run a successful business.
The game’s graphics are nothing that will dazzle you. While fully 3D, the characters are Sims like in appearance. Graphically, the game does look dated and it’s definitely not a game to show your system off. The dishes are also very low on polygon count giving the food a very blocky look. Animations for the characters feature a nice variety of movements and you can see some emotions in the characters by how they move and interact. The modeling of the restaurant interior is passable with the items having average texture quality and the furniture also being passable. You can zoom in and out and also rotate the camera to get a better view on the action. There’s even an option to follow a patron or worker in a close up third person mode. Many other tycoon like games do look better though but the look of The Restaurant does serve its purpose.
As with most tycoon games, you start out small and work your way up. You won’t have much money, skills, or skilled labor but you’ll slowly build up a good quality restaurant with some great food. You’ll train yourself in three different cooking styles and I was surprised that a few other types weren’t included but it does open up for an expansion disk in the future. Pick your food, tweak the recipes, set the price and serve it up. You have a good control over the quality of ingredients and the price of the items on the menu. The balance between the quality of your restaurant and the food at the beginning is critical in trying to maximize your profit. A good variety of food is also needed. You don’t want to have a restaurant with only a few choices or your customers won’t be happy with the selection. The décor of the restaurant is also important as providing a comfortable atmosphere, quality furniture, and seating arrangement also determines how well your restaurant does. Placing objects is easy and you’re giving some visual color cues to show you where you can or cannot place an item and the room needed for the item to fit. Rotation of the object allows you to fine tune how you want the item to look. One nice feature is that you can manipulate objects on single, similar, or all item aspect. Say you want to place a certain flower on all tables. You don’t have to go to each table to do it and you can easily dictate the item to be placed on all tables, saving time.
Everything has an upkeep cost. Don’t expect to purchase something for the restaurant and not have to pay for it any longer. As you add more items, more maintenance costs are added and that eats into the profits. Of course the better items cost more to maintain. You can’t run a restaurant with chairs that are broken or kitchen items out of order so you have no choice but to pay those maintenance costs. Combine that with the salary of the staff and you’ll see that there are a lot of costs in running a restaurant.
You are giving a few months to accomplish the goals that are presented to you. By working through one day, the rest of the month is calculated by how well you do in the first of the month. This means you can’t dilly dally and you must make sure you do well so that the calculation at the end of the month provides you with large revenue. I do like that you don’t play every day of every month. If that was the case the game would take really long to finish one goal. At normal speed, the day takes roughly an hour to work through but there are four different speed settings so that you can speed through the day if you feel you are doing well. The normal speed is set pretty well and doesn’t force you to rush around to accomplish things. Where I felt normal speed in The Sims was too fast, the speed in The Restaurant felt just right and not too long or short.
By reading any customer complaints, you can see how well you are doing and try to fix the ones that aren’t working. If you get numerous complaints about a wait staff being rude, you should probably get rid of that employee and hire a replacement. If you see customers complaining about the dirty dishes, you should probably hire a better porter, another porter to help with the task, or purchase a dishwasher. Other complaints include the price and quality of the food. Realistically, you can’t please everyone but to succeed in the game you do have to minimize as many complaints as possible.
The various employees have a skill level and different responsibilities. Porters wash dishes and serve up entrees in the dumbwaiter for delivery to the next floor. Captains take orders while servers provide delivery of food and topping off drinks. You’ll also need a hostess to seat people. You can even hire chefs to help cook in your restaurant. Each staff member also has salary requirements and morale. The better the morale, the better they work. While you can increase salary to increase morale, I would’ve liked a way to discipline a staff member who isn’t doing their job and to see if they turn their performance around. Increasing salaries to bad workers to get them to work better just doesn’t seem right. I also found it easier to just hire replacements rather than to spend money training the lackluster staff members. It shows you don’t have to be loyal to your staff and hiring and firing on a whim won’t affect the game.
AI does have some problems that can be rather annoying. I had one porter stand in the doorway to the kitchen preventing the servers to retrieve the orders thus producing angry customers storming out the door. There’s no way to direct the staff to move somewhere so you are stuck if they don’t decide to move for a while. Other annoyances include the lack of ability to direct a staff member to help someone or put some orders in priority if some customer has been waiting a very long time. Making sure the customer is happy is one of the top priorities in the restaurant business but the game doesn’t give you some options to direct to where help is needed.
Restaurants can span two floors and adding another floor adds some complexity to running the place. Without a dumbwaiter, you’ll probably have many unhappy customers getting cold food or leaving because the food took too long to arrive. You can balance out the help by assigning some of your staff to only cover a floor. While you can assign floors, the game does lack the ability to assign certain staff to certain areas of the restaurant. In real life, most restaurants assign servers to different sections of the place and I would’ve liked this ability to help fine tune where I would like the wait staff to be.
Goals in the first few scenarios are pretty easy to accomplish and one thing I do like is that if you’re given three months to finish and you finish it in the first month, you instantly move on. You’re not forced to play out the rest of the months. The ramp up of difficulty is pretty good and you’re not given too difficult of goals to accomplish early on.
Along the way there are some customers, marked with a green arrow, which will help you for a price. Some will show sell you some recipe tweaks or teach you some new ones. If you have enough money, you can buy some of the help offered and increase your skills and restaurant a little quicker.
There’s even a cooking challenge ala Iron Chef where you are pitted against a few chefs. Choose a recipe to showcase and watch the chefs battle it out. Entering the competition is not free so you need to have the funds or you won’t be able to enter. There are three mini games that you can play to help increase your chances of winning and each mini game represents a different skill to increase during the competition. If you win with your recipe, it will be noted as an award winning and can boost sales as people will want to try out the winning dish. Prize money will also be awarded to you if you win. While not too complicated, the Iron Chef competition does help give you a break from managing the operations of the restaurant and earn some money at the same time.
In the end, The Restaurant is actually an enjoyable tycoon game. It’s not the prettiest looking game and there are things that I’d love to see to help improve the gameplay but Enlight did a pretty good job on the final product. There’s already a patch to help improve game somewhat with some AI tweaks that looked like it helped a little bit. At $20, this game’s priced very nicely and I do feel you get your money’s worth and then some. With story and sandbox mode, The Restaurant gives you plenty to do and the experience of running a restaurant without getting your hands dirty.
A fun tycoon game, the Restaurant will keep you busy for a while and it can be had at a really good price.
Rating: 7.9 Above Average
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
I've been reviewing products since 1997 and started out at Gaming Nexus. After writing for a few different sites that went under, it's nice to bring back a site that's not dependent on revenue and just wants to deliver news and reviews of products.
I'm married, and enjoy first person shooters, sports games, and real time strategy games.