Twin Peaks owner Randy DeWitt downplays all of that and insists that the appeal of the restaurant goes beyond the obvious. Hearty meals and a focus on making customers feel special, he says, are what really keeps them coming back.
“We believe in feeding the ego before feeding the stomach,” he says. Or as the website of the mountain lodge-themed restaurant states, “Twin Peaks is about you, ‘cause you’re the man!”
Twin Peaks is part of a booming niche in the beleaguered restaurant industry known as “breastaurants,” or sports bars that feature scantily clad waitresses. These small chains operate in the tradition of Hooters, which pioneered the concept in the 1980s but has struggled in recent years to stay fresh.
Instead of relying on lust alone, the new crop of restaurants is growing by offering new themes (think: rustic lodges and Celtic pubs) and varied menus (think: pot roast and shepherd’s pie instead of just burgers and wings). In other words, they’re hoping maybe people really are coming in for the food.
The nation’s top three “breastaurant” chains behind Hooters each had sales growth of 30 percent or more last year, according to Technomic, a food industry research firm. They still represent less than 1 percent of the nation’s top restaurants, but the upstart chains are benefitting as other mid-priced options like Applebee’s and Bennigan’s have experienced declines during the economic downturn.
“The younger crowds want to go to a newer place, not where mom and dad took them,” says Darren Tristano, an analyst at Technomic.
Tovan Adams says he frequents Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery in Tempe, Ariz., where waitresses wear matching tartan mini-skirts and bras that fit in with the restaurant’s Celtic theme. He even brings his daughters, ages 6 and 9, with him for lunch.
“If you come in the evening, you’ll see a lot of kids here,” says Adams, an electric engineer who likes the menu’s variety. “Everyone’s still got their clothes on. If you go to the beach, it’s a lot worse than being here.”
Rose Dimov, a 22-year-old waitress at Tilted Kilt, says her job is no different from any other waitressing gig — make guests feel special and ensure they have a good time. As an aspiring ballroom dancer, she also says she’s not fazed by the revealing outfit that comes with the job.
“Going to a restaurant should be an experience,” Dimov says. “We’re entertainers.”