Q: It makes me angry every time I drive by the Hofbräuhaus restaurant (which at last report still will open some year) and see “Hofbräuhaus St. Louis” on the wall. Not only is it not in St. Louis, but also Belleville has put up huge sums of money to get it to locate here. What’s the deal? Why do you think it’s not Hofbräuhaus Belleville?
F.G., of Belleville. et al.
A: The next time you’re in Rosemont, I respectfully suggest you take a close look at the Hofbräuhaus restaurant there.
Uh, Rosemont? Rosemont where? Ohio? New Jersey? Maryland? They all have cities named Rosemont. But when it comes to the Hofbräuhaus franchise, I’m talking about Rosemont, Illinois.
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I’d wager many or even most people don’t know this fact unless they’re perhaps Hofbräuhaus groupies. So, I’d also bet, therein lies the reason that the sign on the restaurant’s outside wall reads “Hofbräuhaus Chicago” even though the Windy City lies 25 miles to the southeast. “Rosemont” gets second billing underneath Chicago just as “Belleville” falls under “St. Louis” in smaller type here.
My point is this: Yes, I understand you’re justifiably proud of Belleville and the fact that such someone decided to locate such a prestigious eatery here. Yes, you’re frustrated after seeing millions of your tax dollars going for something that we’ve been waiting for what seems like eons to open. And, yes, you may even accuse me of shilling for a business that we hope will become a BND advertiser.
But I really think you have to look at it from the owner’s perspective. We’re not talking about a local diner or small regional chain like, say, Fletcher’s or Margarita’s or Papa Vito’s. We’re talking about an internationally renowned restaurant that dates back to 1589 and is now the No. 1 tourist attraction in Munich, the city of its birth. With such popularity, it was only a matter of time before cities around the globe wanted to give their citizens a bit of the Old World gemütlichkeit from a universally recognized name.
But if I’m putting up the big bucks to land a franchise, I’d want the most bang for my outlay. I’d want a name that would be instantly familiar to the maximum number of potential customers. So let’s say I’m planning a trip, whether to drive around the county or to plan a business convention. Further, let’s say I’m a Hofbräuhaus fan (which I am, having been to the original München location), and I’m wondering where I might find one.
If I go to the hofbrauhaus.us website and see Chicago or St. Louis, I immediately can picture in my mind how to plot my trip while worrying about the details later. If I see “Rosemont” or “Belleville” I’m thinking, “Where the heck are they?” and “Might they be smaller, second-rate establishments?”
That’s why all of the other U.S. locations (save one) are linked to major metropolises: Las Vegas, St. Petersburg, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Ohio, and Cleveland. There are also Hofbräu Beer Gardens in Miami, New York City and Milwaukee. The only exception is Newport, Ky., but it’s so close to Cincinnati, you almost could throw a rock across the Ohio River and hit a fan at the Great American Ball Park.
So I ask you: Would you be more likely to visit the Kirkwood or the St. Louis Museum of Transportation? The St. Louis or the Missouri Botanical Garden? The University of Champaign or the University of Illinois at Champaign? I’d argue the latter name in each case carries more prestige and is likely to draw more traffic as would Hofbräuhaus St. Louis. Although there have been similar complaints, I’d say recognizability also explains the naming of St. Louis Downtown Airport and MidAmerica St. Louis Airport even though both are squarely in Illinois.
Rather than thinking you’re being dissed, I’d suggest feeling pride in the notion that the Hofbräuhaus decided to settle here rather than in downtown St. Louis, the Central West End or Chesterfield (where it probably would have been called Hofbräuhaus St. Louis, too). Besides, we’re probably going to need lots of warm bodies from across the river to keep the joint jumping every night. So once it (hopefully) opens, I’ll be raising a stein or three to our good fortune.
According to legend, how did Hofbräuhaus beer once save the city of Munich?
Answer to Friday’s trivia: Truly. Revolutionary. Theater. That’s how Boone, N.C., bills “Horn in the West,” a historical drama it has been presenting on its outdoor stage every summer since 1952. Called the nation’s oldest Revolutionary War drama, it brings to life the famous frontiersman Daniel Boone and the hardy Blue Ridge Mountain settlers in their struggle to preserve their freedom before and during the War for Independence. For more details, go to www.horninthewest.com.