The triumphant reign of the 'breastaurant'
As of April, casual dining establishments serving sex appeal along with the beer and hot wings can call themselves anything but "breastaurants." That's when Doug Guller trademarked the term for exclusive use at Bikinis Sports Bar & Grill, the company he founded in 2006.
"Breastaurant" describes a dining spot with female servers in revealing outfits. In June, a trade publication, The Nation's Restaurant News, reported that this portion of the casual dining segment had grown to over $2 billion in annual sales.
According to Darren Tristano, executive vice president of the food industry research firm Technomic, 80 percent of the business comes from male customers. "The female servers play a big role in drawing that demographic," he said.
Not everyone approves of the model. Serial entrepreneur and Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis of CNBC Prime's "The Profit" owns Rose's Café & Bakery, a gluten-free organic restaurant with locations in Evanston and Highland Park, Ill., so he knows a thing or two about running a food service business. In an interview, he opposed using sex to promote one.
"I'm very passionate about steering away from it," he said. "I don't see any value in it long term. How many people can you attract, and what is the risk of offending somebody?"
Whatever the long-term prospects of the breastaurant might be, there's no denying that it's an important piece of the casual dining segment. Read ahead to see a list of some of the most famous and most successful.
By Daniel Bukszpan
Posted 20 Aug. 2013
Mugs N Jugs
Located in Clearwater, Fla., Mugs N Jugs offers the type of experience one would expect from a breastaurant: attractive young servers clad in tank tops and short-shorts, and a menu heavy on barbecue, wings and burgers.
The spot offers features that separate it somewhat from the pack. The company website stresses a seven-night-a-week commitment to karaoke (provided that football season doesn't get in the way), and Tuesday is family night, where children eat free.
Bikinis Sports Bar & Grill
While Doug Guller was vacationing in Australia in 2001 and watching a rugby game at a bar, a smiling female server came to take his order. On his return to the U.S., he opened a restaurant whose main selling points were beer, sports and comely female waitstaff. He called it Bikinis Sports Bar & Grill.
The first location opened in Austin, Texas, and today the Lone Star state boasts 12. There are also two out-of-state locations, one in Charlotte, N.C., and one in Oklahoma City. The sports-themed menu offers every kind of fried delight known to man, all served by waitresses in bikini tops, cutoff jean shorts and cowboy boots.
Significantly different from your average breastaurant, Cowgirls Espresso is a Washington state drive-thru business that serves almost nothing but coffee, with no on-site dining. But employees wear skimpy outfits reflecting daily themes, such as Bikini Wednesday or School Girl Thursday, so it still qualifies.
Owner Lori Bowden has run the entire operation since founding the business 13 years ago. Though she conceded that most of her customers are men interested in more than a latte, she maintained that they wouldn't keep coming back if the product weren't good.
"Seventy-eight percent of our customers are men, and men are visually stimulated," she said in an interview. "But we provide amazing coffee, and people come back because of it."
Bone Daddy's House of Smoke
Bone Daddy's House of Smoke is a Texas-based restaurant with six stores throughout the state. Its website proudly proclaims "BBQ is our religion" and calls the restaurant "nirvana." One look at the menu—festooned with ribs, pulled pork and brisket—shows that to be the case.
The website emphasizes the grub more than other breastaurants, and the reviews on Yelp.com give Bone Daddy's high marks. But the site refers to the food as "the other reason you're here." The servers, known as "Daddy's Girls," are the first reason.
Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery
Founded in Las Vegas in 2003, Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery gives the breastaurant model a Celtic twist. With decor cribbed from British pubs and "A Cold Beer Never Looked So Good" as its motto, the restaurant is distinguished by its waitstaff, who wear plaid kilts and bras covered by white shirts tied above the midriff.
The website has a "Featured Kilt Girl" section that highlights a swimsuit-clad server of the month. It also mentions both her favorite menu item and her most deeply held aspirations. Natalia, for example, Kilt Girl for June 2013, enjoys the Spicy Black Bean Veggie Wrap and aims to open a no-kill animal shelter.
Cups Frozen Yogurt
Cups Frozen Yogurt has franchises in New York and New Jersey. Despite its suggestive name, photos of bikini-clad women on the walls and tank tops worn by the staff, co-founder Rick Barbrick believes that his organization transcends both the typical breastaurant and the typical ice cream parlor.
"Cups is a unique, fun and highly energetic environment," he said in an email. "Anyone can sell frozen yogurt—we sell the experience. … It's the complete experience that gives us that edgy vibe versus an everyday yogurt bar or ice cream shop."
Bikinis Sports Bar & Grill may have trademarked "breastaurant," but without Hooters, there wouldn't have been anything to trademark in the first place. Now celebrating 30 years, the company has more than 430 franchises in 28 countries, including Guatemala, Japan and South Africa.
In 1997, The New York Times reported that Hooters had agreed to pay a $3.75 million settlement in a lawsuit filed by three Chicago-area men who had applied unsuccessfully for jobs. It also agreed to create jobs for applicants of either gender, such as host, bartender or busboy.
Hooters also made headlines earlier this month when one of its San Diego locations posted a sign in its window saying that the city's scandal-plagued mayor, Bob Filner, would not be served were he to walk in. A photo of the sign made the rounds on Twitter, courtesy of San Diego Republican Party Executive Director Francis Barraza.
The interior of Twin Peaks recalls that of a mountain lodge for the rugged outdoorsman. Calling itself "the ultimate man cave," the restaurant offers televised sporting events such as boxing and Ultimate Fighting Championship, and its menu features standard sports bar food as well as some unusual items, including fried pickles and venison chili.
Dressed in khaki shorts and midriff-exposing tops, the "Twin Peaks Girls" change it up to reflect the holidays when appropriate. They don Santa-themed uniforms during the Christmas season, and black lingerie is the uniform on Black Friday. At Halloween, they sport costumes, from Wonder Woman to Pocahontas.
There are 13 Show-Me's throughout the Midwest, in such states as Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and of course the "Show Me State" itself, Missouri. Its servers are clad in tank tops and short shorts, the de rigueur outfit for most breastaurants.
The company takes great pride in its "Show-Me's Girls," describing them as "attractive" and "model quality." The website says that "60 to 70% of Show-Me's Girls are likely to be college students," many of whom evidently have gone on to become lawyers, chiropractors and pilots.
"Success for a Show-Me's Girl is far greater than what they are today but, rather, what we hope to foster in them for all their tomorrows," the website says.
When Marcus Lemonis isn't running his multibillion-dollar company, Camping World, he goes on the hunt for struggling businesses that are desperate for cash and ripe for a deal. In the past 10 years, he's successfully turned around more than 100 companies.
He's now bringing those skills to CNBC Prime and doing something no one has ever done on TV before—putting over $2 million of his own money on the line. In each episode, Lemonis makes an offer that's impossible to refuse: his cash for a piece of the business and a percentage of the profits. Once inside these companies, he'll do almost anything to save the business and make money; even if it means firing the president, promoting the secretary or doing the work himself.