A new restaurant is taking over Hooters’ niche.
While sales at Hooters were flat last year, Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery’s business soared 18%, according to estimates by Technomic, a food industry research firm.
Both companies employ similar strategies: Find gorgeous, young women to serve beer and wings in skimpy costumes.
But Hooters’ costumes and menu have grown stale after more than 30 years in the business. Sales have steadily declined by roughly $US132 million since peaking at $US960 million in 2007, according to Technomic.
Hooters is now working on rehauling its image, while Tilted Kilt and other “breastaurant” rivals are rapidly expanding.
Tilted Kilt currently has 94 pubs — up from 14 in 2008 — and is planning to open 30 new locations this year, according to Bloomberg. Hooters, by comparison, has closed 40 restaurants in the last six years and had 360 total locations in 2103, according to Technomic.
Average per-restaurant sales are slightly higher for Tilted Kilt, at roughly $US2.33 million compared to Hooters’ $US2.3 million.
So what’s different about Tilted Kilt, aside from being new?
For starters, the Celtic-themed pub attracts a younger crowd.
The average Tilted Kilt customer is 36 years old, which is nine years younger than the average Hooters customer.
Tilted Kilt sets itself apart by offering a broader menu than Hooters, with specials like shepherd’s pie and Irish stew, in addition to burgers and wings.
But it’s the service that brings in all the business, according to Tilted Kilt president Ron Lynch.
“Our servers are what people come to see and interact with,” Lynch said in a recent interview with Bloomberg TV.
Their costumes include knee-high socks, short plaid kilts, and skimpy bra tops that are far more revealing than Hooters’ costumes.
In order to work at Tilted Kilt, applicants must attend an audition where they are required to try on the costume and play the part. Most of the waitresses are female, while some men are hired to tend bar and bus tables.
“We have what we call a HOST program — hiring only spectacular talent — its like an audition for us,” Lynch told Bloomberg. “They have to fit the costume, look good in the costume, [and] we do the interview with them. They have to have a spectacular personality.”
In addition to Tilted Kilt, Hooters is also facing competition from other “breastaurant” rivals such as Twin Peaks, Ker’s Winghouse, and Brick House Tavern + Tap.
Twin Peaks’ sales increased 68% to $US165 million in 2013 over the previous year, as the chain nearly doubled its locations, according to Technomic. Sales at each of the latter two chains, which are the fourth and fifth largest breastaurants by sales, increased by 11% over the same time period.
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