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Personal Finance

A purrfect meal: a restaurant for cats
New York will briefly have a new restaurant, one catering strictly to the feline trade.
August 17, 2004: 4:10 PM EDT
By Les Christie CNN/Money contributing writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - New York has always been a great food town, with cuisines from all over the world represented in its thousands of eating-places.

But on August 17th, there will be a restaurant launch like no other in the city's history: the gala grand opening of the Meow Mix Café, purported to be the first ever catering to cats.

Cat food maker Meow Mix is committed -- that might be the exact right word -- to welcoming a feline clientele to the cafe, which is located on Fifth Avenue, directly across the street from the main branch of the New York Public Library. The launch is part of a promotion marking Meow Mix's first foray into the wet cat food market.

At the restaurant, the company will ply nice kitties with some of its new cat food flavors. These include: What's the Catch, a tuna treat; Gobbliscious, turkey meat (natch) and giblets; and a beef dish called Filet Meow.

"We're trying to be the Ben & Jerry's of cat food," says marketing director Ira Cohen.

More than a third of all American households now own a cat (or so the owners would like to believe), according to Cohen. These cat-lovers average about two cats per household; that adds up to 80 million mousers.

Marketing meow

The company hopes the cafe will raise its name recognition among that huge clientele. The Meow Mix Café follows numerous other brand names, such as Coca Cola, Harley Davidson, and Hershey, to midtown Manhattan retail locations.

It's part of a trend called experiential marketing, which aims to make customers active participants in a company's promotions and advertising, and so make them more aware of – and more emotionally attached – to a product or brand.

Another part of the effort is the Meow Mix Mobile, a van that travels from city to city around the country spreading the word and delivering cat food to elderly or housebound customers.

The company also sponsors Meow TV, a cable show aimed at the third of the cat population that is said to like to watch television. Besides features appealing to human viewers, the show has scenes, such as squirrels running along the tops of fences, said to fascinate cat couch potatoes.

At the Meow Mix Café, the company expects a tabby turnout of between 50 and 100 on opening night. "Some of them will be with Meow Mix employees and their friends and relatives," says Cohen. "But we're also expecting a lot of regular New Yorkers to stop by."

In addition to cat food, the café will serve human food. Its store will sell toys, games, and Meow Mix-branded merchandise.

If you want to dine there, however, you better hurry. As in most things in life, there's a catch: "The restaurant will remain open for only five days," says Cohen. "If it works, we'll think about doing it in other cities."


The effort is costing Meow Mix in the neighborhood of $200,000. Any proceeds -- "all money taken in," according to a spokesman -- will go to animal-related charities.

After the café closes Cohen says the company will evaluate how well it did and then possibly take it on the road. "I believe this concept might have legs, four in this case," he says without any apparent shame.

The café will be open from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on August 17, and from noon to 8 p.m. the following four days. It will not welcome dogs.  Top of page

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