Restaurant chain The Tilted Kilt, coming to south Fort Myers, makes plaid sexy

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Your Ft Myers Beach Florist

The Tilted Kilt is bringing its fast-growth formula of scantily clad waitresses, high-tech televised sports and good food to Southwest Florida for the first time.

It will open in about eight weeks in the old Dwyer’s Irish Pub location on U.S. 41 in south Fort Myers south of Daniels Parkway, said Chris Karakosta of Karakosta Brands, which will own the franchise.

The Kilt also will provide a jolt to the local economy.

“I would suspect we’re going to hire 80 to 90 people,” said Ron Lynch, president of the Tempe, Ariz.-based restaurant chain, noting that the 12,700-square-foot Dwyer’s is much larger than the typical Kilt, which is about 7,500 square feet.

The unusually large Dwyer’s location is a challenge, but Lynch said the two-floor layout lends itself to having a space that can be used for parties, special events and live music.

Mark Crowley of Dwyer Crowley Realty, who negotiated the building’s lease, said it’s larger than most national franchised restaurants.

But, he said, “The advantage we have is location, and it’s a landmark, I think.”

The building, which was known as Ballyorney’s Irish Pub when it closed down in January, also still has furniture and décor that was imported from Ireland for Dwyer’s.

The Tilted Kilt’s arrival puts Southwest Florida in the midst of an intense rivalry in the “breastaurant” sector between industry leader Hooters and a handful of rivals who have popped up in the past few years.

Right now, with 85 locations in the United States and five in Canada, the Kilt is No. 2 behind Hooters, with more than 430 locations in 28 countries, said Darren Tristano of Chicago-based food industry analyst Technomic.

“They tend to be hitting a lot of consumer appeals in terms of cold beer, comfort foods, a good atmosphere for entertainment, especially sporting events, attentive service with very attractive servers,” he said.

Lynch said the Kilt is only superficially like Hooters although he acknowledges that “We are often compared to them.”

For one thing, he said, “We put much more emphasis on sports” along with a more sophisticated menu.

Tristano said the sports emphasis is a competitive advantage for the Kilt, which builds in sophisticated TV viewing to each location before opening.

It’s still not clear who will prevail, Tristano said.

The Kilt is growing fast, he said, but “Hooters is still the largest player and the wild card of the mix.”

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