Have you ever eaten a pizza with an egg on it? How about while you were bowling? Well, have you ever, while bowling, eaten a pizza with an egg on it that's staring back at you? If the answer is no, look no further than the 1933 Group's Highland Park Bowl, where Sanrio recently launched a residency to spotlight its popular Gudetama character, also known as the Lazy Egg. The residency, which runs through February, offers everything that fans of the character could want, from branded food to a themed bowling package.
So how did this unique collaboration begin?
Bobby Green, co-owner and designer in the 1933 Group, explains that his fiancée, Carol Moore, can be credited with the idea. "[My fiancée] and I go to Japan every year, [and about] five years ago … she saw Gudetama, this egglike character, and kind of fell in love with it," Green says. "[More recently], we traveled to Osaka and we went to the Gudetama Cafe there and had our Gudetama lunch."
After visiting the cafe in Osaka and then hearing about previous Gudetama collaborations with Plan Check and Curry House in the United States, Moore suggested a collaboration for the 1933 Group. The 1933 Group and Sanrio share a public relations firm, which made it a natural link to pitch Moore's idea to Sanrio.
The 1933 Group originally offered either its Highland Park Bowl or Idle Hour as possible locations for the collaboration, because both had a lot of food options. "At some point, everyone just started pushing the bowling alley," Green says. "It just seemed to be the best fit because you could do so much more [at a bowling alley] than at just a restaurant. [Sanrio had also] never done anything with bowling, and we just thought it was a great fit for personal reasons, because we're fans of the character."
The people at Sanrio agreed. "After our first meeting, we saw Highland Park Bowl as a dynamic, sublime space where we would have so much fun collaborating on the Gudetama experience for their customers as well as our fans," says Susan Tran, director of brand marketing at Sanrio.
From there, it was a joint collaboration between 1933 Group (including Moore) and Sanrio. Since this was the first time 1933 Group had ever tackled this kind of project, Green says, it definitely was a lot more work than they expected it to be. "There's the concept and there's the design, then there's sampling that needs to happen, and sampling needs to be approved, and then after that's approved you can go into production," Green says. "We learned a lot from the product production side of it all. The only one that got to be lazy in this whole thing was the egg. Everyone else had to work pretty hard." All in all, it took about a year of work to get the residency up and running.
So what came out of all that hard work? First and foremost, there's the branded food and drink. Fans can purchase the Gudetama x Highland Park Bowl Meal Set, which costs $40 for one person or $55 to share for two. The set includes the Gudetama cocktail, which is a Moscow Mule in a copper mug with a Gudetama straw; a wood-fired margherita pizza topped with a Gudetama fried egg and bacon; a side salad; and a Gudetama tiramisu. The pizza and tiramisu both feature Gudetama's signature eyes and mouth staring back at you.
Those who purchase a meal set also receive 10 percent off any of the exclusive Gudetama merchandise available at Highland Park Bowl. The merch includes a yellow Gudetama bowling ball ($200), a vintage-inspired crying towel ($12), Gudetama bowling socks ($10), hats ($35), T-shirts ($25), zip-up hoodie sweatshirts ($50) and lapel pins ($5). Guests can enjoy any of the Gudetama food, drinks and merchandise without having to bowl. Merch also may be purchased at 1933group.com/shop.
Fans who do want to bowl can purchase the Bowling Lane Package, an all-inclusive bowling, food and beverage deal. Included in the package are two hours of bowling time, Gudetama-themed scoring and lane decor, unlimited food and beverages, the Gudetama bowling socks and the lapel pin. The package starts at $275 for two guests and goes to $700 for six. If this package is a little pricey, customers can reserve a lane through the venue's normal process and pay the normal hourly lane rates, which would not include the themed scoring and lane decor. Fans can still order the meal set with a regular bowling reservation. And Gudetama can be seen beyond just what can be purchased: Banners featuring the Lazy Egg line the bowling alley walls, while lights showing the character amongst bowling pins are visible on the floor.
So who were the creative minds behind all of this? "The pizza was definitely [my fiancée's] idea, and I also think it was immediate [that we all agreed] it has to be an egg on a pizza because [pizza is] what we're known for. There has to be a bowling ball. The tiramisu, I believe, was actually offered up by the staff at the bowling alley," Green says.
Sanrio also was quickly on board, offering input to make the residency come to life. "It was a collaborative process from start to finish," Tran says. "We discussed all the elements of how to incorporate Gudetama throughout Highland Park Bowl. [Sanrio] designed custom artwork for this collaboration that captures the aesthetic of both brands and built it around the full bowling experience. You can spot Gudetama throughout the space in unexpected ways."
Ultimately, whether you're a fan of bowling, pizza or Sanrio, the Highland Park Bowl Gudetama residency has a lot to offer. "Gudetama is one of Sanrio's newest and most popular characters. Its lazy, apathetic attitude is so relatable to people worldwide. Many fans feel a personal connection with this character," Tran says. "Highland Park Bowl is a great space where fans can come together and engage with Gudetama."
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Green echoes Sanrio's sentiment. "I think for the Sanrio staff, it's been one of the most fun collaborations because it's not just a meal and a product, it's more of a whole experience," he says. "I kind of feel that this [collaboration] is a bit more punk rock [than previous ones Sanrio has done]. … I think that's why people love it so much."
Highland Park Bowl, 5621 N. Figueroa St., Highland Park; (323) 257-BOWL, highlandparkbowl.com.