“Breastaurants”: Ballooning Trend in Recession Dining Has Bounce

June 8, 2011  |  

Say goodbye to Hooters. The original “breastaurant” is facing competition from growing regional chains that also mix cocktails and cleavage, with a bit more class. Entrepreneur magazine brings us an eagle eye view of fresh scantily-clad waitresses bearing finger foods, as this segment polishes its image. New “man caves” such as Tilted Kilt and Twin Peaks have thrived during the recession, despite providing more expensive food options than the typical Hooters fare.

How do the neo-“breastaurants” do it? Is it all about pretty girls with bear midriffs? Or is there something else driving men to spend over a billion dollars annually at what are little more than sports bars? Entrepreneur offers insight into the buoyant “breastaurant” phenomenon:

The concept has grown in spite of the recession by focusing equally on upscale comfort food, full bars with extended beer choices, a full menu of sports on TV, and waitresses in tight shirts and short shorts. But the most important aspect of these restaurants is the same element that powers most successful eateries: customer service.

Why is this segment so popular? “It starts with comfort,” says Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic, a food-industry consulting firm in Chicago. “These concepts are growing by offering a different level of service and attentiveness.

They provide a service to men who may not have a person at home to take care of them in the same way. That’s important to a number of people, and it drives them back.”

It’s hard to say exactly why these public man caves took hold in the last few years. Some think a shift away from political correctness or toward a more sexualized culture made the concepts more acceptable. Others believe that as Hooters sales flattened and expansion stalled, like-minded entrepreneurs saw a niche that wasn’t being filled.

African-American women’s site Clutch Magazine questions whether the “breastaurant” bubble is a backlash against women’s increasing power, making this bros and beers fantasy world one that encourages immaturity in men. Modern women don’t have the time to be as attentive as waitresses, as cavorting in kilts makes it hard to cook, clean, work and care for kids. “Breastaurants” are certainly trending up, and may make a great investment, with franchises currently available for the privately-held companies mentioned in the Entrepreneur piece. But the questions remains: do these enterprises cause social harm?

“Breastaurants” transform the giving and receiving affection into a commodity, banking on males’ eternal desire to be catered to. As fewer “real” women find this limiting role palpable (or possible), institutions that increase men’s zeal for this treatment are stroking a desire that can’t realistically be fulfilled — unless they keep paying pretenders. It might seem almost impossible, but it is much more economically advisable and emotionally preferable for men to learn to accept the new roles that women have earned. But I doubt the trend in “breastaurants” will deflate any time in the near future. Breasts tend to trump female equality.

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