Jock Weaver, the former president of Hard Rock Café who helped it grow into a $200 million brand and the world’s largest experiential music themed restaurant company, is bracing for the return of live entertainment. And he has a new, growth-minded concept at the ready.
Eat. Drink. Rock is the motto of RockHouse Live, a fresh music-themed that boasts live entertainment every night and innovative technology that connects guests with performances from what will eventually be across the globe.
RockHouse Live is the brainchild of lifelong musician Zach Bair, who began playing with the idea of a restaurant concept with constant live music 15 years ago. Bair started with the live and virtual entertainment concept in the Dallas and Memphis markets.
What really sets RockHouse Live apart, though, is its VNUE technology. VNUE, a company led by CEO Bair, streams live shows from each RockHouse Live location, so guests can be immersed in the live music experience, no matter their location.
“The thought was always to have a place where people can go and have a great time and see their favorite bands, that could be local, regional, or national touring bands, up close and personal,” Bair says. “And that was really the thrust of it.”
When Bair met Weaver, an executive who also led TBA Entertainment and became the youngest person to list a company on the London Stock Exchange and American Stock Exchange, it was the ideal opportunity to bring RockHouse Live to the next level. Weaver has participated in 50 merger and/or acquisition transactions with values exceeding $350 million over his 35 years of experience.
Bair is best known for implementing and commercializing the “instant media” business model, acquiring pioneer DiscLive, and engaging the Pixies on the first tour that grossed more than $500,000 in revenue in just a few weeks. Bair also spearheaded acquisitions, which included Moving Records, as well as numerous other companies and technologies. Bair and his board of directors sold Immediatek, a high-tech company he founded and took public, to Mark Cuban.
“I said, well, be careful what you wish for because if you want to ride fast and hard, we’ll go,” Weaver says.
Today, Weaver is the chairman of Heritage Trust Private Equity, a firm that provides advisory services to growing businesses. He also serves as executive advisor to Bair at VNUE, Inc.
This will key expansion. The VNUE investment is powered by GHS Investments, LLC, a private investment and management group based in New York that has provided financing solutions for high-potential small cap enterprises for over six years.
RockHouse Live’s growth started with a flagship location in Clearwater, Florida, in April. Quickly, RockHouse Live made plans to open units in the University of Mississippi’s home in Oxford, Mississippi, and the bohemian Ernest Hemingway destination Key West, Florida, this year.
From his time at Hard Rock Café, Weaver knows the value in positioning a business as a unique concept with a differentiated core. For Hard Rock Café, that was as the world’s largest museum of rock and roll memorabilia. RockHouse Live is all about the live music experience, seven days a week, while remaining connected to the other venues’ performances.
“It’s that connectivity and the experiential aspect of music that really differentiates it from any other ordinary dining experience,” Weaver says.
Restaurants that have staying power find ways to distinguish themselves, Weaver says. Live entertainment boosted by VNUE’s technology is RockHouse Live’s core equity.
Some might ask why anyone would open a live entertainment-themed restaurant during an economic stretch dominated by a pandemic. While initially customers may have avoided live entertainment and in-person dining for fear of the virus, Weaver says, the live music business is back, nationally and internationally. With artists touring and venues reopening, RockHouse Live can maximize on the pent-up demand to see shows, in addition to dining out.
Additionally, broad closures have opened chances to chase market share, Weaver says, especially in terms of attractive locations.
“It created an opportunity for entrepreneurs to step in and opportunistically get locations that otherwise under any other circumstance wouldn’t have been available,” Weaver says. “So we took the positive side of it, and began to develop it.”
RockHouse Live also navigated the difficulties of the labor shortage. It is fully staffed and operating, Weaver says.
“Everybody has to find their own path, but what we try to do is create an incredible work environment,” Weaver says. “We’ve been able to attract the brightest and the best.”
When Weaver is called to lecture on entrepreneurship, he says many students followed Hard Rock Café as a case study on its strategic marketing plan. The truth of Hard Rock’s unit plan and its later success was much simpler than perceived: follow the iconic locations. It’s something RockHouse Live intends to do as well.
“The reality is there was not a grand plan that was mapped out,” Weaver says. “The expansion plan in the early days was to go to markets that are fun to hang out in. That still works today, and that’s sort of what we’re doing.”