Like Hooters, Twin Peaks restaurants take pride in their sexy female servers. They hold an annual All-Star Bikini Contest to determine Miss Twin Peaks, and they put out a staff calendar featuring Twin Peaks girls in miniskirts and leather vests. Hair’s big; lashes are long; nails are flawless.
If you serve at Twin Peaks, you know what’s expected of you. You know how you’re supposed to look, and you know your appearance is judged every single workday.
“From the beginning of orientation,” one former Twin Peaks hire told me, “they make it clear looks are a big deal. You get graded every day. The manager looks you up and down in your uniform and grades you on hair, makeup and fitness.”
If you get good grades, she explained, you pick your shifts and days off. If your grades are low, you get fired.
“They had Twin Peaks girls come in from other locations,” the woman said, “and they split us into pods where the girls taught us about makeup, fitness, hair. Every other serving job I’ve had, it’s like, just look good. You can figure it out.”
For this hire, the grading system was too much: “I’ve had serving jobs before. I know everybody judges me on my appearance, but at Twin Peaks, I had to give them the authority to judge me, which is even more degrading. It’s like, being degraded is officially part of the job, and I knew it’d kill my self-esteem.” In the end, she didn’t take the job.
Kristen Colby works as Senior Director of Marketing for Front Burner Restaurants, the parent company of Twin Peaks. Colby acknowledges the Twin Peaks girls are evaluated on their appearance but uses different terms to describe the process: “We don’t call it a ‘grading system’; what we have in place is a ‘performance review’—our Twin Peaks girls go through a performance review on a daily basis, but we never use the term ‘grade.’”
Colby points out that performance reviews are common: “I compare it to an office job. I have a staff of five great employees who work for me, and I review them whenever they do a project.”
And Colby wants to make clear that if a Twin Peaks girl walks in with flat hair one day, she’s not going to get fired; she’s going to get support. “That’s why these measures are in place,” Colby says. (I followed up to ask exactly what kind of support is offered for issues like flat hair or chipped nails, but at press time Colby had not responded.)
A former Strip nightclub owner, who asked to remain anonymous, said that judging girls based on their appearance is commonplace and legal: “It depends highly on the job description. There are creative ways to put together a job description such that appearance becomes a crucial part of it. That’s why you see listings for ‘model/server’ and ‘model/bartender.’ If you do that, it’s not out of line to obligate your staff to look substantially similar to how they did when you hired them.”
But even this former club owner had never heard of a policy quite like that of Twin Peaks: “Monitoring how they do their nails or makeup is fine, though I’ve never heard of anyone being graded.”
I’m not making any legal objection to Twin Peaks’ “review” system here, and in an idealistic way, I respect the company’s transparency, because other venues monitor girls’ appearances without acknowledging they do so. But it just sounds like an awful business decision to me. Do Twin Peaks servers perform better when they’re insecure about their jobs? Do they look and act sexier when they’re insecure about their appearances? Are girls likely to keep a job in which they feel—and actually are—judged on a daily basis? Maybe that stuff flies in Twin Peaks’ Wheeling, Illinois, or West Des Moines, Iowa, locations, but here in Vegas, sexy 20-somethings have plenty of other high-paying job opportunities. As model/whatevers, just down the street.