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Cleavage, Beer and Bad Food: The Recipe For Restaurant Success

Hooters, where dads teach sons the finer points of staring at women, has started an entire restaurant category. A very profitable category that is swelling in size faster than... well, you know.

"Breastaurants" is the term of art used in the industry to describe this phenomenon. (And by "art", I mean anything but.) These places have names every bit as clever as their inspiration: The Tilted Kilt, Twin Peaks, Brick House Tavern + Tap, Bone Daddy's House of Smoke, Mugs 'N Jugs and The Honey Shack are just a few. (And by "clever" I mean...,) The slogans are every bit as witty: "Dispensing happiness to the common man." "BBQ, beer and daddy's girls."

The basic idea behind Hooters and its ilk isn't original: Use cleavage, beer and bad food to attract men. Gosh, how did they think of that? What set Hooters apart from a strip joint with a fry cook was giving it a PG-13, "family-friendly" patina that made it less embarrassing for people to be seen entering.

That, of course, also meant that the tips earned by the performers ... er, waitresses ... were significantly lower. There are plenty of books by women who put themselves through college as strippers. It's difficult to imagine the same being said for the gals down at Twin Peaks.

The follow-on faux Hooters -- uh, breastaurant implants? -- were inevitable. Because, as H.L. Mencken wrote, "No one in this world has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby." The privately held Hooters (too easy) doesn't release earnings, but is widely reported to gross $1 billion annually.

Hooters is very aware of the issues that its business model raises and goes to great lengths not to sound defensive about it. The company website states:

  • "Claims that Hooters exploits attractive women are as ridiculous as saying the NFL exploits men who are big and fast." Which means the claim is 100 percent correct. The average NFL player's career lasts three years, mostly because of injuries.
  • "Hooters Girls have the same right to use their natural female sex appeal to earn a living as do super models Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell." Yes, they do have the right. However, people who make money off women who are using their "natural female sex appeal" are generally referred to with a word that rhymes with "shrimp."
To Hooters' credit, its statements are more detailed than what is on competitors' sites.

It is an ideal time to be in the breastaurant biz. The tanking economy makes the patrons more desperate for distraction and provides more qualified candidates to work there. According to one theory, waitstaff attractiveness is an economic indicator. If the GDP is rising, then good-looking folks can find better places to work than the local meat house.

It is an ill wind that doesn't have a silver lining ... or something.

Photo: Brick House Tavern + Tap

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