Management strategy games are big business, and there seems to be a game to cover almost every aspect from running a hospital to a theme park, wildlife park to football teams, and even whole cities. It's therefore nice to see a new area being introduced in to the fold, in the form of managing your own restaurant.
Restaurant Empire has been developed by Enlight - the same people who crafted JoWooD's Hotel Giant, and there's many similarities which are instantly obvious to people who have played the game. Graphically the game is similar using the same style engine with it's fully 3D graphics, and object placement system.
There's two ways you can play Restaurant Empire - either work your way through the story mode which develops chapter by chapter, setting the plot and introducing new aspects to the game, or playing in the sandbox mode which lets you build up your ideal restaurant without being bound by the time limits and objectives that the story mode gives you.
Where as most strategy management games seem to focus heavily on one aspect - be it running the actual business, picking the best combination of decorations or building the fastest scariest rides - Restaurant Empire thankfully has several aspects all mixed together to ensure you've got a wide range of possibilities. You've not just got to aim to make a profit, but also build up the reputation of your chef, and ensure your customers don't go away with a dodgy stomach caused by your cooking skills - or lack of.
The dishes on your menu obviously need to be cooked, and this means you need the chefs with the skills. They can develop the skills that they need, but they'll have to practice to get good, and so you'll want to start off with some basic dishes first to ensure there's at least a selection for your customers. Other considerations that come in to the menu selection are the time it takes to cook various items, and the ingredients needed. Do you go low cost and basic, or aim for a higher quality meal with some more expensive and extravagant ingredients.
Other aspects to the management of your restaurant include the fact that you've got to design it to have the right decorations and features, with a pleasant atmosphere which will make your customers feel comfortable in, and want to spend their hard earned cash on your ever increasingly posh menu of culinary delights. Whilst all this is going on you've also got to make sure the staff are doing their jobs, taking orders, cooking the meals, cleaning the equipment, and of course making sure all of your staff are polite despite being rushed off their feet.
You've also got to consider aspects such as the space to give your staff when serving up food - if the tables are too closely packed together then they'll constantly be getting in the way of each other. Spacing tables out also means it's more comfortable for your customers and they're not hemmed in to a tight corner, and they'll also not complain about not being able to hear themselves think over the noisy people on the other side of the restaurant - although spread them out too far and it'll loose the atmosphere of being in a popular and lively restaurant.
As with all games like this that are using a 3D viewpoint, there's the somewhat inevitable problems with the cameras, and where as the basic isometric viewpoint of The Sims seems very simplistic in comparison, there's no doubt that it works better due to the fact that you're not finding yourself getting obscured from the action by dipping behind an such as a table or partition wall.
Restaurant Empire is an enjoyable game with some novel touches to the gameplay which should provide fans of the business management/strategy games something totally new to try out, and the fact that you've got a huge range of foods and recipes to chose from makes it much more than just mundane day to day action. The fact you can also explore the cities that your restaurant is situated in acts as an added bonus and something which other similar style games could learn a thing or two from.Overall score: 7 out of 10
Recommended Price: £29.99
Available: April 11thRelated article: Restaurant Empire cooking up a stew