Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery, the Tempe, Ariz.-based chain that has challenged Hooters with its Celtic-themed ambience and scantily clad female servers, is ready to make a push in Northern California.
NoCal Tilt Holdings LLC, a team of business executives and restaurateurs, has signed a 10-site deal to develop Kilt eateries in Sacramento, Fresno and the Bay Area over the next five years.
NoCal said Tuesday that it is scouting sites, with a goal of opening the first franchised restaurant in early 2014.
There are more than 80 Tilted Kilt locations in the United States and Canada. Tilted Kilt has a half-dozen pubs in the state, all of them in Southern California.
The original Tilted Kilt concept was developed in the Rio hotel/casino in Las Vegas in 2003.
Today, it's arguably the strongest challenger to 30-year-old, Atlanta-based Hooters, which has more than 430 outlets in 28 countries.
Yet there are other similar eateries/taverns with such names as Twin Peaks, Mugs N Jugs, Bikinis Sports Bar & Grill and Show-Me's.
The segment, with its unabashed touting of shapely servers and full-on cleavage, has earned the moniker "breastaurant" - a term simultaneously loathed and celebrated in the U.S. restaurant industry.
Names aside, it's the fastest growing segment in the midprice restaurant business, according to several national restaurant trackers. Sales growth over the past two years has exceeded 25 percent, as traditional chains have seen flat sales or even declines.
"They're still a relatively tiny portion of the overall restaurant industry, (less than 1 percent) but they're definitely growing," said Peter Schaub, a marketing and branding expert in New York.
Asked about Tilted Kilt, Schaub said: "Well, they're certainly in your face about what they are, and that's becoming increasingly true of all these places. Even Hooters has stepped up its sex appeal.
"While a surprising number of women are in the demographic, the marketing is directly aimed at the male libido. Patrons probably aren't going there just for the food. ... It's almost like the early days of Playboy magazine ... saying you read it only for the articles."
Standard issue work apparel for women servers at Tilted Kilt includes a midriff-baring plaid kilt and a matching bra. Unlike servers in a traditional restaurant, Tilted Kilt servers stand a chance of getting to pose for the company's annual calendar.
The Tilted Kilt menu is typical of the segment - bar grub favorites and macho-size portions of meat and fish, and gallons of draft and bottled beer choices.
Tilted Kilt's sometimes bawdy, Celtic-twist menu choices include "Big Arse Burgers," "Danny Boy's Shepherd's Pie" and "Maggie Mae Fish & Chips."
Like other eateries in the segment, in-pub TV screens are regularly tuned to sport events.
With Tilted Kilt likely to surpass 100 units soon, it's regarded as the primary competitor to Hooters, which saw its U.S. revenue decline after a peak of $960 million since 2007.
Hooters officials, however, note that the sales slide dovetailed with the recession, when all manner of restaurants nationwide experienced revenue declines as U.S. consumers tightened belts and ate out less.
Texas-based Twin Peaks lists 32 outlets, most of them in the Lone Star State, but its website shows another 10 ready to open soon.
Twin Peaks employs a mountain lodge setting - "the ultimate man cave" - and pitches "eats, drinks, scenic view." Servers, or "Twin Peaks Girls," are clad in low-cut shorts and shirt tops tied tightly above bare midriffs.
Call The Bee's Mark Glover, (916) 321-1184.