This may not sit well with some people, but the rise in the number of so-called “breastaurants” is actually doing a lot of good for the restaurant industry. Marketing and advertising people have known for a long time that sex sells. This doesn’t mean that all types of markets want to see for-adults only action. It’s more of the idea of using sex appeal to draw consumers in… and create a loyal following.
For those who work in industries struggling to cope with diminishing customers and falling revenues, showing a little cleavage has come to be a definite solution. At least, that’s what it looks like for the restaurant industry. Customers who have started to lose their desire for what used to be their favorite dishes are now finding themselves eagerly going back for more. Because there’s a show of cleavage that comes as a perk.
Not Objectification, Just Being Practical
The Bikinis Sports Bar & Grill has positioned itself as “the only breastaurant in America.” The restaurant takes pride in its scantily clad staff, and even encourages taking steps to make their staff more physically attractive, in the sexual sense. Doug Guller, CEO of The Bikinis Sports Bar & Grill, penalizes staff who won’t play along, and offers incentives for those who do.
For example, in an episode of the “Undercover Boss” TV show, Guller was shown making an offer to pay for increasing the breast size of one employee. He was also seen terminating the services of another of his restaurant staff who didn’t wear a bikini and wore a t-shirt instead.
Of course, Guller got flak for those incidents shown on TV, but he explained them away, in effect claiming that he was misinterpreted in both situations. He said that the employee who had been fired had also been serving a customer too much alcohol. He also explained that on the other hand, the employee who was up for a breast size increase was the one who raised the issue of getting an augmentation. And he was just trying to be more supportive.
Did the resulting controversy result in lower sales and a bad image for Guller’s restaurant? Not at all. On the contrary, sales went up. The target market of The Bikinis Sports Bar & Grill – males between the ages of 25 and 55 – were drawn in. Cleavage won over the opinions of the morality police.
The general idea, even among the food servers, is that it’s not a matter of sexual objectification, but more of being practical. It is more of the restaurant’s staying afloat, and the employees keeping their jobs in a labor market that’s been under much stress over the past years.
Making a Profit
Some may think that the marketing approaches taken by The Bikinis Sports Bar & Grill are mere exceptions, and that more people prefer to be served by less non-physically exposed wait staff. This could be more wishful thinking on the part of those who support seeing restaurant employees in relatively more traditional attire (read: no exposure of cleavage, no ultra-tight and curve-hugging sheer blouses, dresses, or pants).
Restaurants with wait staff who are dressed modestly, such as Olive Garden, TGI Friday and Applebee’s have been seeing less profitability as time goes on. Even if most restaurants in this category, or those who opt for modest attire, have tried to use a host of other marketing tactics such as loyalty rewards and even giving away some items on the menu to their dining patrons, they are still struggling.
Meanwhile, the breastaurants are making a profit. What’s an owner to do?
Giving the Market What It Wants
In essence, what breastaurants and other dining places using the huge power of sex appeal to entice customers and to sell their products are simply giving the market what it wants. This may seem like a total cop-out or a shrugging off of responsibility on the part of the restaurant owners, or even pure and simple exploitation. But is it really?
There’s a general understanding of what “exploitation” means, and that it’s what happens when people treat other people in an unfair manner, in order to benefit. Are employees who are required to show cleavage while on duty being exploited? The answer would probably depend on who is being asked. But if the employees themselves seem to take things in a matter-of-fact way, and see some cleavage exposure merely as part of their jobs, who can blame them?
At the end of the day, it’s still the economy that’s being considered primarily. When you’ve got good food, but no one takes notice, isn’t taking steps to make your market appreciate you more with an additional sex appeal perk worth it?
Good food. Good times. They go together.