Ethics Quiz: The “Breastaurants”

Playboy bunnies

All right, class…put away your books.

This quiz will count toward your final grade in Ethics 101.

Please watch the following video…about the growing culinary trend of so-called “breastaurants,” Hooters wannabe establishments that sell food service and ogling rights.

Now here is your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz for today, a multiple choice. Choose as many of the following to describe the trend as you feel is appropriate:

a. This is entertainment, that’s all. Nothing ethically or culturally objectionable at all.


b. If you thought Playboy Clubs and their “Bunnies” were sexist and demeaning to women, you can’t regard these places as harmless. Same thing, different packages, and more unethical now than then, because we supposed  have learned since then.


c. It’s legal and nobody is making the women do anything they don’t want to do. There’s no offense here. If you don’t like it, don’t eat there.


d. Women desperate for a job in a bad market are being forced to debase themselves. They are victims of exploitation and sexism, that is wrong, and anyone who patronizes such a place is encouraging and endorsing unethical conduct.


e.  The very existence of these establishments encourages sexual harassment and discrimination. There is way to legally prevent them, but no ethical person would own or operate such a place.


f. The “Breastaurants” encourage attitudes and conduct that society is trying to discourage, disapprove, and eliminate. They are ethics corrupters.


g. Allowing children in these places is irresponsible.


h. Voluntarily patronizing any of these places is unethical, as it encourages damaging attitudes toward women.


i. All those cheap breast double-entendres in the ABC story were unprofessional and sleazy.


j. Oh, lighten up! Look at movies. Look at TV. Look at cheerleaders. Look at how high school children dress. It’s just sex, that’s all. Weenie!



Good luck.



Graphic: Betseyj

45 thoughts on “Ethics Quiz: The “Breastaurants”

    • Hah! Perfect.

      Irony? Or in the ad biz, isn’t it called “cross marketing,” “product placement” or one of those awful made-up terms?

  1. From strictly a legal standpoint, c. From an ethics standpoint, d through i, not taking k because AAAARGH changes nothing.

  2. b. e. f. g. h. i. k. Can’t pick d because you didn’t finish the second sentence and, even if you had, I’m not sure we can say that ALL the girls/women working there are being “forced” into this kind of work by the market. I’ve known women who see such work as an opportunity to take advantage of the stupidity of (certain) men, which is why I would add:
    L: The very existence of such establishments encourages idiotic fantasies and behavior by boys/men, and, thus, results in debasement of all human beings, not just women.
    I got the viagra commercial, too. Sad. Very sad.

    • The unfinished sentence was SUPPOSED to read (and now does) “They are victims of exploitation and sexism, that is wrong, and anyone who patronizes such a place is encouraging and endorsing unethical conduct.”

      Sorry. I was so nauseated that I must have stroked out for a second there…

    • I know that there are women who are happy to exhibit themselves for money, just as there may be drunks who like dancing for quarters, or geeks who like eating live chickens. It is still wrong to pay people to debase themselves, even if they like being debased.

      • “I know that there are women who are happy to exhibit themselves for money,…”

        You mean, like NFL cheerleaders? Oh, wait: I think most of them are unpaid, for their Sundays. I don’t know. Well, then…how about…fashion models and actresses? You think they are all self-debasing?

    • Lorraine, that is one “L” of an, er, over-the-top over-generalization you made. Are you seriously suggesting that any and all employees and customers of breastaurants are callously tolerating and enabling debasement of all human beings?

      • the “good point” was to Jack’s comment.
        In response to Eeyoure’s question: No, I am not suggesting that all the employees and customers are callously tolerating and/or enabling debasement. Some employees and customers are simply unaware/naive/ill-informed, etc.

        • But you patronize a restaurant that exploits its workers by paying them less then minimum wage? I know its legal and no one is forcing them to do it but its still wrong.

          • 1. I don’t investigate the salary structure of places I give business to.
            2. It’s not my job to police other peoples’s salaries.
            3. The whole restaurant system is wrong and unfair. The alternative would be to never use restaurants.For me, that’s impossible.
            4. “Minimum wage,” in some cases, is MORE than the workers are worth. McDonalds comes to mind. If you can’t get an order right, EVER, you’re lucky to have any job at all, and the customer is unlucky.
            5. I seldom tip less that 20% and sometimes 25%. A habit learned from my Dad. My Mom thought 5% was just fine.

            • 1.You don’t need to investigate it, you already know they make less then minimum wage.
              2. Its isnt ? Then why is it your job to police the hiring practices of others?
              3. Yes its unfair but an ethical person wouldnt frequent places that have unfair labor practices. I don’t shop stores that I know buy and sell items made in china.
              4. True.
              5. 20% is the standard now and in most cases 25%. I learned the same habit from my Dad along with never ever tip less than $5.00.

              • 1. No, I don’t. That’s not universally true.
                2. I don’t police anyone. Some issues I expose hoping that something might change. I’ve written about the inequities of restaurant compensation. I don’t have a better system in mind. Tips are considered part of compensation, but contingent on service.
                3. As I said, they may be unfair, but I don’t now how they could be better. I wouldn’t go to a restaurant where the owners kept the tips. The problem is a little like in theater: the actors are wildly underpaid, but the alternative is to have fewer theaters, less art and fewer jobs. That’s true of restaurants too. The most underpaid employee in a good restaurant is often the owner.
                5. Standard, perhaps,but not that common. I see most people leaving 15% or less, especially my age or older. The temptation is high when 20% adds 30 bucks.

                • I just got back from France (and no, this isn’t a “Viva la France” liberal love fest, so no need for those responses please). There, being a server in a restaurant is a professional career and tips are rare to modest because they are built into the price of the food. As the U.S. moves further away from an industrial superpower and more toward a white collar superpower with a growing service sector, does it make sense to start transforming these jobs? A place like McDonalds probably couldn’t handle the margins without charging $10 for a Big Mac, but what about the vast majority of DC restaurants? If you’re going to add 20% to your meal anyway, maybe it could be added to the food/alcohol up front. And, if these “jobs” suddenly became career opportunities, wouldn’t they attract a better and more stable employee base?

                  • Beth, you raise a very interesting point.

                    As a recovering chef who worked in France for a while, I can point out to others that Beth is squarely on the money when she notes that tips are small and service costs are partially built in to the costs of the food and wine.

                    But while the idea of adding in service costs in high end restaurants here isn’t a completely outlandish idea, I’m not sure it would work well here, for a variety of reasons, including:

                    1) As Beth notes, it’s a career CHOICE in much of Europe – a choice made in teens. There is an extremely high level of professionalism required and expected there. In addition to providing customers with guidance and an enjoyable experience, the servers are expected to know almost as much about the food, and how it’s prepared, as the cooks. That’s not the case in the vast majority of restaurants in the United States, where the bulk of servers are, for lack of a better term, semi-skilled labor – to say nothing of the fact that the majority of servers here wait tables until they can find something more akin to their real vocation (or avocation). Or because it’s the only thing they can find to do. In Europe, people CHOOSE the career path; here, it’s more of a fallback.

                    2) Europeans don’t eat out the way we do here. Dining in Europe is often something of a splurge – something for which people save up and then savor. Culturally, Americans are more likely to go out because they don’t want to hassle with cooking than to enjoy the experience. We’re much more price sensitive (and, it could be argued, less value conscious), even though rationally we should know by now that our cheap meal invariably comes with a service surcharge and our airline tickets don’t include transportation for our luggage.

                    3) This next part may cause some disagreement, but there’s only one service we, as consumers, obtain regularly in which we get to determine its value: the service we get at restaurants. We know what the recommended amount is, but we have the opportunity to pay more generously if the server has done an outstanding job, or to pare back and let the server know if they did a lousy job. Hey, call me a free marketeer – I LIKE being able to do that.

                    • Re No. 3, what happens to the fantastic/professional server when she has to call in sick, family emergency, or yikes, pregnancy leave? Even if her employer offers health care benefits, she doesn’t get compensated for what she “would have made” if she had been able to work. She usually compensated off her hourly — I don’t know what it is now, but when I did this in the mid to late ’90’s it was $2.52 an hour. I don’t necessarily disagree with your responses Arthur, but I think No. 1 could change naturally as wages rose. No. 2 may or may not change — but I think if you look at the stats, you’ll see a lot of $ comes from corporate-paid meals or tourism at least in large cities. So those restaurants will see the same revenue. I don’t know how this would change behavior in smaller cities/communities.

              • Bill, regarding #3, last sentences. Look for a film (still on the festival route, I think) called “Xmas Without China.”

  3. A and C. This business model is so passe’ I’m surprised you even bothered with it.. When I moved to the Jupiter Fl area 20 years ago there was a local sports bar chain call Duffy’s… Slightly more subtle but pretty much the same, it shutout Hooter’s wherever it sprung up..

    I didn’t realize how important the sexuality was to income until one of the servers died from a breast augmentation surgery.. It was related that that was an important aspect to their success… Made me sad and realize what tough choices women have to make.

    And every local sports bar in the South Florida area pretty much follows the same pattern; shapely barmaids and servers in tight uniforms and a cheerleader (or biker or fisherman) type approach.

    Woman, kids men all seem to enjoy the atmosphere created by their innocent message of sexuality.

    Seems strange the rest of the country is just now developing chain restaurants in the 2010s

    • “innocent message of sexuality”
      Are you kidding?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?
      Any message of sexuality that focuses virtually exclusively on a woman’s breasts is not innocent, it’s ignorant. As we all know from Jack’s constant (and appropriate) commentary on the subject, ignorance is something to correct not encourage.

      • Half the customers are women, at least they are in these FL chains, and there are plenty of families during the dinner hour. So it’s not the fixation on breasts that drives the loyal customer base, it is the atmosphere.

        Calling it ignorance is rather unethical, because where do you draw the line? Cheerleaders at a Football, Basketball, Hockey Games, for BOTH sexes? Do you think their message is any different? It isn’t.

        • Do you truly believe that it’s the atmosphere that’s driving female customers there OR the increasing jaded-ness of women’s attitude towards the exploitation of their bodies.

          Think about it: in commercials, print-ads, magazines, movies and tv shows – women have been bombarded with their naked image for many, many years. We may not all like it, but we have become so used to it, that we hardly object anymore because our subconscious “ignore-autopilot”, after so many years of training, works like charm.

  4. I think it’s cheap and it objectifies women.
    There is something simply GROSS about parading around with your fake, silicon gargantu-boobs on display to be leered at by guys older than your dad.
    Good bye self respect.

  5. It took a couple of tries to view the video. In any case, the transcript is so jumbled, it’s hilarious to read. (I just enjoy absurdist humor, and bloopers.)

    To me, the answers to the quiz are some combination of b, c, and f, in a YEMV (Your Ethics May Vary) fashion. I am encouraged, if it is true that the market for this kind of dining-out experience has become saturated, or, er, over-built for. Maybe, after all, there *is* some uncompromising modesty in our American gumbo culture of “Velveeta-eating hyenas” (to borrow from a David Letterman Top 10 list of what British think of Americans – that one makes me laugh every time I think of it). Even after a long, long, and quite sinful life, I will likely still be able to count on one hand the number of times I have been, or will be, a customer in such places – without double-counting fingers, too, that is. Breastaurants are nothing special to me; if I dined out twice in one week in such a place, I would feel like I was depriving myself of the variety in dining experiences that compels me to dine out in the first place.

    I really do not see anything inherently unethical about such a “revealing” food-service marketing and delivery strategy. Just because there are some customers who lack the self-control to behave in, or to subsequently/consequently (allegedly) behave ethically outside, such establishments, does not mandate that no such establishments are acceptable, or that no person should have the opportunity to dine in such a place. While the scantily clad female server is perhaps not what every family that is dining out together would prefer or should experience, I also do not think that the dress of the servers as seen in the video is completely unacceptable for serving any and all families and children.

  6. a,b,c, i, k : although I expand (b) “however if you thought Playboy Clubs were OK then you are on shaky ground condemning these, not necessarily a hypocrite but you’d better have some well thought out justifications.”

    (j) I’m on the fence about, this isn’t about “sex” it is about “sexiness” or maybe “sexuality” is the better word.

    (d) Let’s consider the NBA in similar terms:
    Men desperate for a job paying more than a pittance are being forced to debase themselves simply because they have athletic prowess. They are victims of exploitation and often racism, that is wrong, and anyone who patronizes the NBA is encouraging and endorsing unethical conduct.
    Sorry, doesn’t work for me. The women who work in these places are merely using their abilities to support themselves, just like a sommelier uses their (hopefully superior) palate and the only people debasing these women are people who equate anything to do with sexuality as wrong or evil.

    (g) particularly bothers me. male children need to see examples of socially appropriate behavior when dealing with a woman expressing her sexuality – fail to expose them to this and they might grow up to be men who think that any woman wearing a mini-skirt wants to be raped. female children need to learn that it is socially acceptable to be sexy without deserving to be treated like a piece of meat.

  7. All have a grain of truth, but objectifying would be more fair and believable as not degrading if it went both ways. Chippendales were a traveling show, but Hooters is a permanent presence. So all except A and J, if it had to be only one it would be summarized by K.

  8. Just an observation from a girl who paid her way through college and law school as a waitress — from bars to family owned restaurants to high-end establishments. The worst harassment that any waitress ever gets is in the kitchen — not from the customers. Also, overall, the most ill-behaved customers who tried to paw at us were in the high end establishments. I’m not condoning these types of restaurants, just commenting on the whole industry generally. It’s not a great place for women.

    • Speaking as a recovering chef: in all the kitchens I ever worked in, waitresses who weren’t phoning it in were treasured and, above all, respected. Not saying that was you, but I worked enough houses to know which servers respected the house, the food and the efforts of the line and which ones were making way more than we were by flashing a seductive smile and leaving the line in a shambles via sheer incompetence.

      Working a busy kitchen relies on rhythm, and in my experience, cooks are tough on anyone that fucks ’em up, and highly respectful to anyone who makes their lives easier. Regardless of gender. And this was decades ago.

  9. It wasn’t from the head chef and I’m only speaking from my experience. And I was head waitress at the fine establishment – so I obviously brought respect to the job.

    • Sadly, not from the chef or the general manager, apparently. If you worked your way to that level and neither was willing to put the miscreant(s) on notice, they were morons.

      • Keep in mind the main point of my comment – the worst harassment was from the customers at the nicest establishments.

        • It makes sense that the worst harassment was from the customers at the nicest establishments. Having more money to spend goes together all too consistently with behaving as one who feels entitled to power.

  10. I can’t quite parse the quiz tonight, but here’s what this reminded me of (I think mostly D and E).

    Some friends of mine I know through a website (very dear to my heart) are currently helping produce an internet reality show. Aside from the fact that I think the internet needs reality programming about as much as I need six buttholes, it just breaks my heart that talented people are making something like this. As far as reality programming goes, it’s far better than almost all the stuff on TV, but it’s still a competition for something of dubious value. It’s still taking twelve people and putting them through stress and unreasonable tests and arbitrary decisions and all that other crap.

    Man, did everyone else flame me when I finally snapped and said I hated it They’re all like, “Nobody gets hurt, everyone benefits, what’s wrong with that?”

    I said, “Because it’s exploitation. Even if everyone ended up with a positive net gain, that would not make the thing that happened right. That’s consequentialism. Furthermore, pretty much any reality show is in violation of Kantian ethics, as it has us treat people as a means to an end, instead of ends themselves. Even if they volunteer, it’s still not right. Everyone is free to do so, but it’s not right to participate, it’s not right to produce and it’s not right to watch.”

    No one would hear of it.

    There is a Hooters in Warwick, right near TF Green Airport. I believe it is the only one in the state.

    Maybe I’ll go there, have lunch, not treat any of the waitstaff badly, tip well and then let my friends know. With the previously established criteria, we’ll see what objections they can raise.

    Needless provocation? Perhaps, but then again, I drew Mohammed again on Monday, so what the hell?

  11. Well, gosh so many things to chose from: b), f), most defenitely i) and k)

    If anyone is on the fence about this one, ethically speaking, ask yourself this: If your 20-year old daughter worked in a breastaurant, would you point her out to your buddies and say something like – “Check out the wrack on my little girl!” ?

    Also, I find it appellative that Meggie Miller herself (director of training and recruiting at Twin Peaks) does not appear to have a taste for scanty outfits at the workplace…

  12. I dont get these places, I never have and never will. Maybe its becuase I grew up in a house with my mother, grandmother, an Aunt who was there all the time and three sisters. Or maybe its becuase I dated a stripper who clued me in that stippers thing all of their customers are scum for coming into such places. But I think its basically becuase I see no reason to pay women to sexually frustrate me, I know LOTS of women who do that for free.

  13. I give it a strong (c) — if there’s no force or fraud, I don’t have an ethical problem with it. I’d also throw in a bit of (i), because…really?

    My quick response to the whole list:
    (a) Pretends that there’s no controversy, when of course there is.
    (b) I basically reject the premise.
    (c) Exactly right.
    (d) There’s no force. The restaurant offers the women a choice.
    (e) I’d need to see some evidence that these places encourage sexual harassment in our culture.
    (f) The opposite of “everybody does it,” and about as useless.
    (g) Don’t know enough about child development to say, but it’s not like they’re giving lapdances.
    (h) As with (e) some proof of this would help.
    (i) Pretty much.
    (j) Like (a), this denies the existence of the controversy.
    (k) Appears to be a joke answer.

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