Restaurant Empire Preview

Will you be an iron chef? Find out in our preview of this unusual restaurant management game.

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Not all strategy games have to include orcs, siege tanks, or wood chopping to be fun and engaging. Developer Trevor Chan proved this point with his previous strategy game, Capitalism II--a game that let you start your own business and build it into a worldwide empire. Chan and his team at Enlight Software are now hard at work on their next project, Restaurant Empire, a game that will let you become a world-famous chef by building a franchise of fabulous eateries. But unlike most stuffy economic games that can sometimes seem like glorified spreadsheet programs, Restaurant Empire will be a colorful 3D game that will let you build and staff your restaurants in real time in large 3D cities. The game will even have an interesting story that will unfold over the course of the single-player campaign with fully 3D cutscenes.

You'll follow the career of an ambitious young chef named Armand.
You'll follow the career of an ambitious young chef named Armand.

In the single-player campaign, you'll assume the role of Armand, a young, idealistic chef who begins his career by reopening his uncle's defunct restaurant. Unfortunately for Armand, the restaurant, like many others, was previously closed down because of competition from the massive OmniFood company, a powerful and wealthy restaurant conglomerate that has bought out most of the world's independent gourmet restaurants and forced the rest out of business. What's more, the company is led by a highly talented and very famous master chef, whose reputation has helped OmniFood seize control of most of the world's restaurant business. It's up to Armand to begin business at his uncle's restaurant and make a name for himself by creating an ideal restaurant, one where the food is delicious and reasonably priced and where the atmosphere is second to none. Only then can he hope to purchase and open more restaurants and eventually build a restaurant empire of his own.

In order to create a good restaurant in Restaurant Empire, you'll need to make sure the place is easy on the eyes. Restaurant Empire will feature building tools reminiscent of the easy-to-use drag-and-drop "build mode" in EA's extremely popular life-simulation game, The Sims, and like in The Sims, you'll be able to take your time furnishing your restaurant before it opens. The game will make good use of the mouse, letting you scroll, zoom, and rotate around your 3D properties quickly and easily. You'll be required to set down certain basic features, such as a kitchen, a reception desk for your guests, and a waiting station for your hired help to carry dishes to your customers, and you'll also want to make sure you put down some table-and-chair settings, but after that, it's up to you. Restaurant Empire will have a number of different furniture sets, as well as plenty of decorations to hang on the wall, place on tables, or set on the restaurant floor, like statuettes and plants. Decorations will add to your restaurant's appeal and help make your customers happier as they dine.

Then again, competitions like these may be where the real action is.
Then again, competitions like these may be where the real action is.

An even more important aspect of keeping your customers happy in Restaurant Empire is having a great menu. The game will let you customize the font, pattern, and front cover of your restaurant's bill of fare, but the really important part of planning your menu will be putting together a winning combination of breakfasts, appetizers, entrees, soups, and desserts. Restaurant Empire will have plenty of different dishes for you to offer your patrons, including steamed mussels, crepes, and good old-fashioned chicken noodle soup. You'll even be able to compete in Iron Chef-style competitions against other cooks to increase your own reputation, which will make your restaurants more popular. However, one of the easiest ways to attract and please specific clientele will be to specialize your restaurant's menu in a certain type of cuisine, such as American, French, or Italian, and since your eventual intention is to build a chain of different restaurants, you'll be able to build a French restaurant in one part of town, an Italian restaurant on the other side of town, and so on.

Of course, restaurants don't run themselves, so you'll also need to hire a staff of receptionists, food servers, and chefs. Just like in real life, good help is hard to find in Restaurant Empire--you'll find that the most talented prospective employees are the most expensive to hire. Though the game's different single-player missions will have specific objectives, the secret to success will be balancing your books. You'll want to try to hire the best staff you can afford and also to purchase the best ingredients you can get for your menu, but rounding out your budget may be tricky. For instance, it will seem tempting to specialize in only a few different dishes to cut down on the number of different ingredients you need to order, but your customers will quickly grow bored if you have only one or two dishes to offer, and they'll leave your establishment for another eatery. In addition, you'll need to choose your chefs wisely, as many of them will specialize in only one style of cooking; the most skilled chef available may be an expert at Italian cuisine, but he may not necessarily fit in at your Wild West-themed American steakhouse. Fortunately, if you wish to take a break from the challenge of the single-player campaign, you'll also be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the game's sandbox mode, which will let you start a free-form game with no specific objectives to accomplish and with as much money in your pocket as you like.

You'll be able to drag and drop your way to a lavish restaurant in minutes.
You'll be able to drag and drop your way to a lavish restaurant in minutes.

It's clear at this point that Restaurant Empire won't be just another "tycoon" game. Enlight seems intent on combining the easy-to-use building and design elements of The Sims with manageable, challenging economic strategy using a subject just about everyone can appreciate: good eatin'. Would-be restaurateurs will be able to try their hand at this unusual game when it's released later this year.

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