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Apple Takes Byte of Restaurant Business With 'Cybercafes'


Marrying two of the most potent pop culture phenomena of the 1990s--theme restaurants and computers--Apple Computer today is expected to announce plans to open a chain of elaborate "cybercafes" throughout the world, starting with one in Los Angeles.

The unusual foray by a computer maker into the restaurant business comes as Apple is struggling to restore the luster to its well-known brand and secure its future in the hyper-competitive computer business.

It also marks another milestone in the steady march of computers--once a solo activity relegated mostly to the office--into the social life of mainstream America.

Apple, which in its early days billed itself as the "people's computer," is betting it can foster the trend and make money off it.

Apple once zealously guarded every aspect of its technology and image, but it has now agreed to license its well-known trademark to Mega Bytes International, a recently formed firm owned by London real estate developers that will help develop the cafe chain.

The location of the flagship Los Angeles Apple Cafe has not yet been chosen. Possible venues include Westwood, West L.A., Santa Monica and Beverly Hills.

Like other cybercafes that have sprung up recently in nearly every metropolitan area around the world, Apple Cafes will combine Internet surfing with coffee drinking. But Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple's plans are far grander in scale than existing digital eateries.

Landmark Entertainment, a North Hollywood-based entertainment firm that specializes in theme park projects, will design the restaurants. They will accommodate 250 people, serve a range of foods from around the world and incorporate videoconferencing at every table.

Landmark's previous projects include a "Star Trek" attraction at the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel and a "Jurassic Park" attraction at Universal Studios.

The cafes will sell Macintosh software and additional revenue will come from renting out "VIP rooms."

Apple plans to donate a percentage of the membership fees to the Artists Rights Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the work of film and television artists in its original form.

The amount of the investment was not disclosed.

The formal announcement is expected to be made tonight at the Museum of Television & Radio in Beverly Hills.

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