Staff Writer The Augusta Chronicle
Friday, Feb. 13, 2015
The Twin Peaks slogan is simple and to the point. The restaurant chain, which recently opened a location in Augusta Exchange, promises “Eats. Drinks. Scenic Views.” Food on the menu is made from scratch. Beer is served at 29 degrees. And, there are 70 HD TVs inside the establishment. Of course, there are also
the Twin Peak Girls, who work in the front-of-house and wear the staple “lumber-jill” outfit: a red plaid cropped top, small shorts and fur-lined boots. Tiera McCullough tends bar at Twin Peaks in Augusta. Twin Peaks is one chain of the growing market of “breastaurants” which is defined as male-oriented restaurants featuring scantily attired female servers.
“All those elements complement the all-female wait staff versus just having an all-female wait staff,” said Joe Hummel, chief operating officer of La Cima Restaurants LLC, the Atlanta-based franchisee for Twin Peaks’ Southeast region. “Our goal is to really give our guests something they can’t get every day.”
While the country’s 500 largest restaurant chains saw growth paces slow from 4.9 percent in 2012 to 3.5 percent in 2013, Twin Peaks and other “breastaurant-like” establishments, including Tilted Kilt, Ker’s Winghouse and Brick House Tavern + Tap, are witnessing booming business, according to Technomic.
With the exception of Hooters, “breastaurant” chains are growing at a 30 to 40 percent rate, said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic. The rest of the full-service category saw just a 2.4 bump in sales in 2013.
“Breastaurant” is the term coined to define a male-oriented restaurant featuring scantily-attired female servers. In 2013, the moniker was officially trademarked by Texas-based Bikinis Sports Bar & Grill, which, not-surprisingly, employs a wait-staff dressed in bikini tops and shorts.
Sports, attentive service and comfort food are often central components of the breastaurant concept, which has a customer base about 80 percent male in the millennial and Generation X demographics, Tristano said.
“It’s affordable,” Tristano said. “They’ve got good cold beer and wings and the attentive service. Putting aside the attractiveness of the servers, the attentiveness is something that younger males are looking for.”
During the recession, when major full-service restaurants halted expansion plans or closed, the emerging breastaurant sector took advantage of inexpensive real estate and quickly filled those voids left in the market, said Tristano, who expects the trend to continue.
“Part of that has a lot to do with the fact that it’s a very under-penetrated segment,” Tristano said. “Most suburban and urban areas don’t have a lot of these types of restaurants, so we’re expecting a high degree of openings and franchising, which I think is going to lead to faster growth and bigger share for those brands.”
Dallas-based Twin Peaks, founded in 2005, represents the fastest growing chain in the breastaurant category. In 2013, it increased both sales and number of stores by more than 60 percent, with $165 million in sales and 46 U.S. locations, according to Technomic’s most recent statistics. Each store generates about $3.4 million annually.
The Augusta Twin Peaks location opened in December on Robert C. Daniel Junior Parkway as La Cima’s 10th Southeastern store.
The franchise owners gutted the former Sticky Fingers building to create a mountain-lodge feel, raising the ceilings, installing retractable wall-size windows and adding an outdoor patio with fire pits. Thirty-two beers on tap and an expansive liquor selection were part of the business model.
Hummel said the local store has so far performed “well above” expectations.
La Cima, led by former Hooters President and CEO Coby Brooks, opened its first Twin Peaks in Atlanta less than three years ago. The group plans to build 30 to 50 additional stores across the Southeast within the next decade, said Hummel, also a former executive at Hooters.
In addition to Twin Peaks, competitors Tilted Kilt, Ker’s Winghouse and Brick House Tavern + Tap all have experienced increased sales and store presence albeit at slower rates, according to the Technomic figures.
While nearly all companies in the breastaurant category are in expansion mode, Hooters – the chain that started it all more than 30 years ago with its orange shorts-clad waitresses – has seen stagnant U.S. growth in recent years.
From 2008 to 2013, the Atlanta-based franchise dropped 18 percent in sales to $828 million and shut down 10 percent of stores. However, the chain still captures the largest share in the segment.
At the Hooters store in Augusta, a renovation project is ongoing to increase both indoor and outdoor seating, add a bar and put heat lamps on the outdoor patio, according to Mark Whittle, Hooters’ senior vice president of global development.
The remodel, described as a “significant capital” investment by Hooters, should be complete by Masters Week.
In the past 18 months, Hooters has remodeled 55 locations in the U.S. and will continue that pace in 2015. The company also opened 10 new international locations in 2014 and recently announced a development agreement to open 30 Hooters across Southeast Asia in the next six years, Whittle said.
Downtown on Seventh Street, Mike Anglin has created his own kind of breastaurant.
In business nearly five years, Tipsey McStumbles’ atmosphere has been a big hit with patrons, Anglin said. The Irish pub’s all-female upbeat bartenders and servers don short plaid skirts and tops of their choice.
“I’m not reinventing the wheel,” Anglin said. “This has been around forever. It’s kind of a tried and true recipe.”
Anglin said he hopes to open a second location in the area and would like to find franchisees to put Tipsey McStumbles in other cities. He has already acquired a trademark for the brand.
“We have everybody from laborers up to doctors and lawyers that come into our place,” he said. “We have a lot of regulars. We’re like the Irish pub/restaurant version of Cheers. It just kind of crosses economic and social lines.”
Although the breastaurant sector has seen widespread market growth, it also has attracted a fair share of critics who say such establishments objectify and exploit women.
For Twin Peaks bartender Rebecca Duncan, feeling uncomfortable while working is not an issue.
The 23-year-old said that though there is some competition amongst her co-workers, she enjoys the fast-paced environment that Twin Peaks provides.
Duncan is one of about 80 women hired to work at Twin Peaks in Augusta. She took the job to supplement the income she receives bartending at the Country Club on Washington Road.
Duncan, who is also a trainer at the Augusta location, said she’s had just one or two instances of men acting inappropriately toward her.
“That’s in every restaurant, though,” she said. “You’ll get your certain customers.”
Hummel said he sees Twin Peaks as giving young women tools for job mobility. The top employees travel to different store openings to help train new employees and gain knowledge of the restaurant industry.
He also pointed out that Twin Peaks provides a flexible schedule for nearly 100 women, many of whom are students, mothers or have other jobs.
“Our girls are like cheerleaders of our brand, so when you look at their outfits, they’re cute and no more risque than your normal cheerleading outfit,” Hummel said. “Our girls are on a pedestal, and we expect our customers to treat them way.”