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Retail Nosh

Mattel's Branded Doll Cafes: Barbie and American Girl

A waitress poses during the opening of a Barbie-themed restaurant in Taipei on Jan. 30

Photograph by Imaginechina via AP Images

A waitress poses during the opening of a Barbie-themed restaurant in Taipei on Jan. 30

Which is creepier, having lunch surrounded by wide-eyed American Girl dolls or smiling Barbies? Mattel (MAT), which owns both brands, is giving diners a chance to find out. On Jan. 30, Barbie Cafe opened in Taipei, and it’s just about everything you’d expect: a vision in pink, chairs that look like corsets, chandeliers made of teapots.

The restaurant group behind the new eatery, Sinlaku Taiwan, licensed the Barbie name from Mattel and invested $1.7 million in the project. It is planning a second Barbie Cafe in Taichung, Taiwan. This is not the first Mattel brand to cross over to the food industry: In 1999, American Girl opened its first cafe in Chicago, for little girls who find teatime with their dolls at home to be monotonous. The chain has similar eateries in 11 other U.S. cities. Here’s how the two doll-themed restaurants stack up:

Doll Madness

Barbie Cafe: Guests can step into a giant box to experience life as a mammoth Barbie.
American Girl Cafe: Diners are encouraged to bring their own dolls, although the cafes “always have extra dolls available to dine with you.” Dolls get their own seats and tableware.Photograph by AP Photo/Jennifer Szymaszek


Barbie Cafe: Menus list calorie counts, even for the desserts, which are decorated with the Barbie logo. One seafood dish apparently is designed to look like a jewelry box.Photograph by Sam Yeh/AFP/Getty Images
American Girl Cafe: Only foods dolls love to eat, like fresh fruits and quiche.

Wait Staff

Barbie Cafe: Waitresses wear tiaras and pink tutus. Male waiters are attired in pink shirts.
American Girl Cafe: Treat dolls like guests (the human kind).
Photograph by Sam Yeh/AFP/Getty Images


Barbie Cafe: A typical meal costs about $10.
American Girl Cafe: Set price of $20 per person and up at the New York cafe, depending on whether it’s brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, or dinner.Photo by Matt McClain/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

Wong is an associate editor for Bloomberg Businessweek. Follow her on Twitter @venessawwong.

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