Paula Deen’s Kitchen and the Cherokee Nation

Paula Deen has not been lazy in the last decade. Her empire includes two restaurants in Savannah, GA, TV shows, magazines, product lines, and cookbooks. Yet, if she were in a race with Emeril Lagasse, he would win on restaurant outlets.

Paula is playing to catch up.

Paula Deen Enterprises has signed a partnership deal last week with Harrah’s Cherokee Casino & Hotel in Cherokee, North Carolina to open Paula Deen’s Kitchen in late 2010. According to the company’s press release, it is the first new restaurant to be introduced as part of a $633 million, three-year expansion program.

Created as a full-service, 404-seat restaurant, Paula Deen’s Kitchen at Harrah’s Cherokee will serve a la carte breakfast, lunch and dinner, and will be reminiscent of the decor and ambiance of her legendary home and kitchen in Savannah…. Adjacent to the restaurant will be a 1,800-square-foot Paula Deen retail shop offering Paula’s cookbooks, spices and food items, cookware, logo wear and gifts.

Her other restaurants are buffets. It makes sense for Paula to partner with a casino. It will attract visitors from across the country already familiar with her cuisine, but won’t cannibalize her own clientele in Georgia. Presumably, like most casino hotel deals, she will not be responsible for the staff, but only the top management and the concept. Like similar deals in other casino hotels, she won’t have to be on premises often.

It is a smart deal because the Cherokee Nation is expanding the whole complex, to be completed by 2012. That means that as the economy continues to recover, Paula’s restaurant will be at the center of a marketing machine to lure new visitors.

What are Paula’s thoughts?

I couldn’t think of a better mix – southern food and casinos. It has all the ingredients for a good time.

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