In a down economy, 'breastaurants' are a growing industry

| Saturday, March 19, 2011

Ordering a hamburger or beer on the North Shore is about to become more eye-popping, as scantily clad waitresses in tartan mini-kilts and push-up bras usher in a new wave of the "breastaurant" market once cornered by Hooters.

The Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery -- whose slogan is "A Cold Beer Never Looked So Good" -- is spending about $1.5 million to open its first Pennsylvania location in the 98,000-square-foot Del Monte Center space formerly occupied by Calico Jack's, company officials said. The Scottish-themed sports bar, with its mahogany paneling and dozens of flat-screen televisions, plans to open within three weeks.

"This is not a kids' bar, the sort of sports bar where people spill beer on the floor," said Dave Fink, the chain's area director.

While there will be pub fare such as wings and shepherd's pie along with more than 30 beers on tap, company officials are fully aware that sexiness sells.

"Our brand starts with the Tilted Kilt girl," said Mark Hanby, vice president of development for Tempe, Ariz.-based chain. "We are not backing away from the sex-appeal angle of what we do."

The Tilted Kilt is the area's first new addition to what Nation's Restaurant News calls one of the fast-growing segments of the restaurant industry.

"This category of restaurant is known as 'breastaurants' inside the industry," said Robin Lee Allen, executive editor of the New York-based trade magazine.

In the midst of one of the worst times for restaurants since the 1930s, "breastaurants" and fast food are the only categories that had increased sales in the past two years, Allen said.

"The restaurant business has been very hard hit," she said.

Around 5,550 restaurants -- or about 1 percent -- closed nationwide between late 2009 and late 2010, she said. The year before, about 1,650 closed, she said.

Hooters still defines the category, with its 460 locations in 44 states and 27 countries. The Atlanta-based chain, founded in 1983, has announced revenues at or over $1 billion in recent years.

Some new chains in the category include Twin Peaks, Bone Daddy's and Ojos Locos, none of which operate in Pennsylvania. A third such chain, Brick House Tavern + Tap, has a restaurant in Willow Grove, Montgomery County.

"What they are presenting is more of a feast for the eyes than a feast for the stomach. You used to only see this kind of thing in Las Vegas, " said Drew Neisser, a marketing consultant with Renegade LLC in New York.

The Tilted Kilt started in 2003 in Las Vegas. Since franchising in 2005, it now has 54 restaurants with others in development, including plans to open in Monroeville and then possibly in Cranberry and Robinson, company officials said.

"Lots of luck to them," said Jim Cornett, who owns the area's only Hooters franchise in Wilkins since his Market Square location closed in 2008 after 16 years in business. "Pittsburgh is a very parochial market."

Additional Information:

Tilted Kilt

Cuisine: European and American pub fare

Where: 353 North Shore Drive

Menu prices: $6.99 (pizza) to $16.99 (Flannery's TK steak)

Notes: The restaurant will employ 150 people. Interviews will be from noon-5 p.m. Sat.

Details: 412-235-7823

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