By Hardy Jackson
Once again, I missed my chance.
Back in the 1960s, when I was as full of myself as a young puppy, I had dinner at a Polynesian-themed restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. The food was not memorable – pineapple and coconut were the flavors of choice. I care for neither.
However, the waitresses, wearing low-slung sarongs and spilling out of skimpy bikini tops, more than made up for what the kitchen lacked.
That was my first experience with what are known today as “Breastaurants,” the fastest growing restaurant chains in an industry that has been pretty stagnant since the Great Recession. Had I stopped ogling and started investing 50 years ago, I’d be a millionaire today.
But some guys down in Clearwater, Florida did.
They started Hooters.
And for a while, the Owl logo with all the double (and triple) mammary entendre, cornered a customer base composed of a drooling demographic that is attracted to bar food and scantily clad women.
I saw the success of their marketing when, coming back from a fishing trip with my buddy Mark, we asked our teenage boys where they would like to eat.
You know where.
While we were being served, one of the Hooter Girls got wings sauce on her white tank-top.
“Oh darn,” she pouted, for a new one would come out of her wages.
Immediately my son, gentleman that he is, volunteered to buy her a replacement – with my money.
Moved by his generosity, she slipped back into the dressing room, changed, and gave my son the stained one, signed by the other Hooter Girls on that shift.
He framed it and hung it on his wall.
I explained it to his mama, who shook her head and muttered something about the nut not falling far from the tree.
Now, new Breastaurants are challenging Hooters for the burger and booby trade.
Topping the list of competitors is “Twin Peaks,” whose logo features snow-capped mountains just in case you don’t get their double-entendre. The mostly male clientele attracted to this “ultimate sports lodge” is served by busty young women dressed like Daisy Duke might dress if she were a lumberjack. Just bubbling over with “signature ‘girl next door’ charisma and playful personalities” these employees (according to the website) “know what men love.” In case you still haven’t gotten the message, “scenic views [are] guaranteed.”
Not far behind Twin Peaks is the Tilted Kilt, a “Celtic themed” sports bar where female employees wear “sexy plaid kilts and matching plaid bras.” Although there is more of a hint of “sexy school girl” in the costume, the fabric looks a lot like the Royal Stewart tartan which is the personal plaid of Queen Elizabeth II.
I don’t think Her Majesty would be pleased.
So what is my point – other than to celebrate how capitalism has once again offered an opportunity to the innovative, how marketing has once again won out over good taste, and how once again I missed my chance to make more money than I can spend?
The point is that for those of you who are looking to jump on the bandwagon before it leaves the loading dock, Breastaurants may be just for you.
Because you won’t have to go far from home – if home is in the South.
Yessir, the Bible Belt, the land of “traditional family values,” has more Breastaurants per capita than any other region.
In Dixieland, they don’t look away – or at least the men don’t.
Despite its Mountain West décor, Twin Peaks has no restaurants in half of the Rocky Mountain States and none in the Appalachians north of Tennessee.
Does this represent a significant shift in the moral underpinning that has held our region together, or is it simply a more open manifestation of what has been going on for a long time?
One assessment of the Breastaurants trend suggests that behind it is an appeal to lust and gluttony – two of the seven deadly sins that have been especially popular below the Mason-Dixon Line.
We have always been big on gluttony, as our obesity rate reveals. One trip through the line at any after-preaching-dinner-on-the-grounds or family reunion will convince you of that. It is a short hop from that table spread under the trees to the table full of wings, burgers, and fries served by “playful girls next door” – and the slope between the two can be slippery, especially if there is beer.
As for lust, even Jimmy Carter admitted having it in his heart from time to time.
Of course, Breastaurants are just bubbling over with sexism, objectification, maybe even exploitation.
But if you can get past those objections, as Southerners have for years, opportunity knocks.
Just letting you know.
Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.