Until I came across an article about Twin Peaks, I had scant awareness of a restaurant category informally referred to as “breastaurants”.
Sure, I had heard of Hooters. There used to be on in downtown Boston, in fact – not surprisingly, near the TD/Boston Garden, where the Bruins and Celtics play. Nor surprisingly, it didn’t last.
The rap on New England is that “our girls” are just not as sexy and pretty as the ones in locations where Hooters and the like seem to flourish. And it is true that we don’t tend to go in for the big hair, gleaming teeth, fake tan, beauty queen look. No, New England beauties are more apt to be the bluestocking, madam librarian types. (You have, of course, seen enough old movies to know what madam librarian looks like when she takes off those glasses and lets down her hair.)
But I like to think that breastaurants don’t succeed in these parts to the same degree they do elsewhere is that we are, in general, a more advanced, refined and high-minded civilization, where our lusty young men want to get to know a lusty young woman for her mind. (Of course, just because I like to think this does not in any way, shape, or form mean that it’s true.)
Maybe breastaurants haven’t taken off here because nine-months out of the year, whatever skimpy outfits the waitresses wore would have to be covered in fleece.
Anyway, since they’re not all that prevalent in our landscape, I was only vaguely aware that the breastaurant represented an entire eating and dining category – similar to the sports bar (of which this area has a surfeit), and that Hooters has, in fact, become one of the tamer variations on the team, their once provocative costumes were now the category’s equivalent of the Lanz nightgown. And that Hooters has sunk so low, breastaurant-wise, that it is now considered a family place to dine which, I guess, puts it in competition with just about every other mediocre chain restaurant out there.
The newcomer is Twin Peaks (ho, ho – or is it no longer okay to say ‘ho, ho’?), which sounds like a complete an utter throwback, where:
Before each shift …managers line up waitresses and grade them on their looks. The women get points for hair, makeup, slenderness, and the cleanliness of their uniforms: fur-lined boots, khaki hot pants, and skimpy plaid tops that accentuate their cleavage. (Source: Business Week)
All very important in the breastaurant biz, or as it is also known “the attentive service sector.” (What else might be in that category? Pole dancers? “Escorts”? Home health aides?)
For my first waitressing job, our uniform was a prim white short-sleeved shirt with a pleated front, a clip on dark brown bowtie, a dowdy, knee-length dark brown polyester skirt, and an orange cotton apron. We were issued one uniform – which most likely had already been worn by someone who’d quit – which (it goes without saying) had to be washed every night. We also had to wear a hairnet and lipstick, and had to make sure that our name tag (first name only) was positioned far enough above the left breast so that no wisenheimer would ask ‘what’s the other one named? Ho, ho! (It was definitely okay to say ho-ho back in my Big Boy waitressing days.)
A senior waitress inspected us for hairnet, lipstick, and nametag violations, but there was no point system. (The article doesn’t say what the point system at Twin Peaks translates into: a better station? a raise? the possibility of accumulating too many demerits and being fired?)
Anyway, at Big Boy, if it weren’t for the lipstick, we could have been mistaken for postulants in some order of nuns with a motherhouse in the Southwest. But we were a family restaurant – underscored by not serving any alcohol – and, while this was in the age of the mini-skirt and hot pants, restaurants did not for the most part specialize in sexy waitresses. If you wanted sexy, you went to a bar or to the Playboy Club and ogle the bunnies.
Needless to say, bluestocking little old me wasn’t likely to find work in a place that went in for sexy. I was young enough, for sure. But other than that…
While at Big Boy, most of the waitresses were young – certainly all under thirty when I was there when I was 18 and 19 – when I worked at Durgin-Park and the Union Oyster House, the average waitress was probably in her late fifties, with a range from twenty (me) to eighty (Bertha, Flo, Gussie).
Fortunately, we didn’t have to push any cutesie-named dishes. (Big Boy did have a sandwich called the Brawny Lad, but that was about it.) But at Twin Peaks, the menu is pretty much wink-wink, nudge-nudge:
Their job, between serving sports-bar fare with names such as “well-built sandwiches” and “smokin’ hot dishes,” is to beguile the mostly male customers, flirting to get them to empty their wallets. They may also have to fend off patrons who’ve washed down too many of the house beers, including the Dirty Blonde or the Knotty Brunette.
Ah, the wit level. If I weren’t so old and creaky I’d be ROFLMAO.
Meanwhile, Twin Peaks is laughing all the way to the bank, and last year was “the fastest-growing chain the in the U.S., with $165 million sales.”
Some of those $165 million in sales are due to pressuring the clientele into upsizing their orders.
When someone orders a beer, they’re asked:
“Do you want the man size or the girl size?”
Which is further described as a “little, 10-ounce baby beer.”
Aw, hell. What red-blooded ‘merican he-man would order a girl size baby beer? Those are for lefty girlie-men who probably carry murses, and who more than likely prefer Chardonnay to a Dirty Blonde, anyway.
While Twin Peaks reputedly has better food than the standard chain fare, industry analysts say that it’s the waitresses that are making the difference. (Twin Peaks restaurants on average gross more than Hooters, or another breastaurant competitor, the Tilted Kilt.)
The chain gets the waitresses discounts at gyms, tanning joints, and nail salons. It gives them tips on styling their hair and using makeup and offers them a diet menu to keep them from gaining weight. The best performers are invited to pose, in some cases topless, for the annual Twin Peaks calendar. DeWitt calls his employees “weapons of mass distraction.”
On the one hand, the money’s probably a lot more than what a waitress could make at a Big Boy. On the other hand, the waitresses have to put with degrading comments and drunken advances from a bunch of yahoos.
Not that I was ever a Twin Peaks kind of gal, but, looking back on a post-waitressing career that has been based on my intelligence, I do believe that - those ancient Durgin-Park waitresses aside – work based on something other your looks has a lot more staying power.
Maybe the Twin Peaks waitresses go on to “real” careers, and view putting up with a couple of years of dimwits ordering Dirty Blondes and making lewd comments to put themselves through college as worth it. It does beat being a lap dancer or a call girl.
Anyway, I was wondering what type of young woman (beyond one who’s attractive and busty) goes in for breastaurant waitressing, and I came across this line from one of the calendar girls for one of the chains, who in her statement on her hobbies wrote:
I love bungee jumping and making pottery with my hamsters.
I choose to think that this is one young woman with an excellent sense of humor. On the other hand, if this is for real, I guess New England just doesn’t have many breastaurants not just because of our bluestocking lookers, but because of the absolute dearth of bungee jumpers who throw pots with their hamsters.