Popularly known as “breastaurants,” the franchises that cater to the male gaze by employing scantily clad waitresses are enjoying booming business even as the rest of the restaurant industry has been struggling. Case in point: Twin Peaks, a Texas-based chain that was founded in 2005 to provide an even racier alternative to the ubiquitous Hooters franchise, was the fastest-growing restaurant chain in the U.S. in 2013.
Twin Peaks attributes its success to a basic understanding of the sexes. “Men are simple creatures and so you don’t have to get too crazy to get them in the door,” Kristen Colby, the director of marketing for Twin Peaks franchise, told the Huffington Post earlier this year. She said that beer, sports, and beautiful women are all it takes.
An internal branding memo provided to ThinkProgress from a current employee at a Twin Peaks restaurant, who preferred to remain anonymous over fears about losing their job, backs up that claim. That employee said the memo was distributed to all the franchises nationwide, as well as handed out to waitresses.
According to the document, the restaurant wants to target guys “who love to have their ego stroked by beautiful girls,” and promises to provide an environment “that feeds their ego with the attention they crave.” They describe their typical customer as someone who likes “attention from beautiful girls and being recognized in front of the guys,” as well as someone who doesn’t want to be asked what he’s thinking:
Spokespeople for Twin Peaks did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
So-called “breastaurants” spark a lot of controversy for what many critics complain amounts to the objectification of women. Twin Peaks’ CEO, Randy DeWitt, refers to his female employees as “weapons of mass distraction.” The waitresses employed at Twin Peaks are given discounts at gyms, nail salons, and tanning salons, as well as a “diet menu” to help them avoid gaining any weight. Some of its locations hold “lingerie weeks” during which waitresses don their lacy underwear.
But the restaurant chain’s internal memo aimed at “guys-guys” is a reminder that deeply entrenched gender roles can also impact men. In a society where men are assumed to be “simple creatures” who never want to talk about what they’re thinking or feeling, there isn’t a lot of room for more nuanced explorations of masculinity — something that researchers confirm has demonstrably negative consequences for men’s health.
Twin Peaks has recently been in the news because one of the franchise’s restaurants was the site of a shoot-out among rival biker gangs in Waco, Texas that resulted in nine deaths, the recovery of about 100 weapons, and 170 arrests. In the aftermath of the violence, the restaurant has come under some scrutiny for hosting “Bike Nights” that attract large numbers of bikers from different gangs.
A Twin Peaks spokesperson confirmed this week that its Waco location will be permanently closed, and its other restaurants will be discouraged from offering Bike Nights. “We are in the people business, and the safety of the employees and guests in our restaurants is priority one,” the company’s corporate office said in a statement.
Rick Van Warner, the corporate spokesperson for Twin Peaks, says the document in question is an old brand consultant’s discussion document that was never distributed to employees. “I’m not saying it’s a fraudulent memo,” he told ThinkProgress. “But it was not, to my knowledge, part of a staff training. We were unaware that this was in the public domain.” He added that “it’s not a policy document, it’s not a memo.” The employee who sent the document to ThinkProgress, meanwhile, says that Twin Peaks’ corporate office emailed the memo to some staff and its contents were covered in a pre-shift meeting.