Fans of the Rainforest Cafe, listen up: the mega dining attraction at the Mall of America is closing.
The stroller magnet is at the end of its first-floor lease and is relocating upstairs to a third-floor spot near its corporate cousin, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Both restaurants are part of Houston-based Landry's Inc., which operates more than 450 restaurant properties.
The last day at the old location is Jan. 18. Construction begins on the new location this month, with a target opening date of fall 2015.
“We were presented with the opportunity to relocate Rainforest Cafe to a prime location within the Mall of America,” said Keith Beitler, COO of Rainforest Cafe, in a statement. “We look forward to serving our loyal patrons and tourists this fall; and know that families will love the new location and its convenience while shopping.”
The release added that “current employees of Rainforest Cafe will be placed at other Landry’s properties until the new opening,” but that’s not what we heard.
“We’re all pretty much out of a job,” said an employee who wished to remain nameless. “We were told we can reapply when the new location opens, but we were told that no one is guaranteed their old job.”
Calls to Landry's corporate office have not been returned. The staff was informed of the news last Friday, the employee said.
There’s a bit of nostalgia involved with the change. The Mall of America location was the chain’s prototype (there are now 27 outlets in 12 states and five countries) and was the creation of local entrepreneur Steve Schussler. Landry purchased the Rainforest Cafe chain in 2000 for $75 million.
For the staff, the news did not come as a huge surprise.
“We all knew that a change was coming, that we would be moving,” said the employee, who has worked at the jungle-themed eatertainery as a server for a year. “We thought we’d be going into the new part of the mall that's going up on the IKEA side of the building. I don’t think anyone is trying to put us out of a job, it’s really more of a series of unfortunate events. We thought we’d be closing one day and moving into the new location the next day, but it didn’t turn out that way.”
She’ll be back to reapply for her job, she said, and she probably won’t be the only one, adding that there are members of the hundred-plus staff who have worked in the restaurant since the day it opened in 1994.
“I love my job,” she said. “Of all of the jobs I’ve had, it’s one of my favorites. They treat us well, and the money is really good. It’s such a fun place to work. I mean, who else has thunderstorms and moving fake monkeys where they work?"