- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The restaurant-turned-crime scene of the brutal motorcycle gang shooting Sunday in Waco, Texas, will no longer be serving beer and buffalo wings, at least as a franchise of the Twin Peaks Restaurant company.

Dallas-based Twin Peaks is struggling to contain the PR fallout from the deadly shootout that left nine dead and 18 wounded after its Waco franchise was sharply criticized by the parent company and by local police officials for its failure to help prevent the incident. Twin Peaks yanked the Waco outlet’s franchise agreement the day after the shooting, but the larger business question may be whether Twin Peaks — one of the star performers on the U.S. restaurant scene since its founding in 2005 — will itself be a casualty of the incident.

“This is the ultimate nightmare for any business,” Tom Kaiser, assistant editor of the trade publication Franchise Times, said in an interview. “It is something that reflects negatively on the brand, but I don’t see an impact on the larger chain.”

Twin Peaks, founded by Randy DeWitt and Scott Gordon as a racier alternative to Hooters, quickly emerged as one of the rising stars in the sluggish restaurant industry. With its lightly clad “Lumber Jill” waitresses and sports-themed “man cave” decor, the so-called “breastaurant” was the fastest-growing chain in the U.S. in 2013, garnering sales of $165 million. Last year, sales rose 45 percent, according to industry monitoring firm Technomic.

There are about 70 locations nationwide, with more on the way, but the Waco shooting has cast a shadow over those previous growth projections.

On Monday, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission suspended the Waco franchise’s alcohol license for seven days. On the same day, Twin Peaks‘ spokesman Rick Van Warner announced the revocation of the branch’s franchise agreement.

“Unfortunately, the management team of the franchised restaurant in Waco chose to ignore the warnings and advice from both the police and our company, and did not uphold the high security standards we have in place to ensure everyone is safe at our restaurants,” Mr. Van Warner told local media.

Before the shooting, police were stationed outside the restaurant as it was known to be frequented by the biker gangs. When asked at a press briefing Tuesday why police were not inside the restaurant when they knew trouble was brewing, Waco Police Sgt. Patrick Swanton said, “The simple answer is we were not welcomed in by management.”

The Waco franchise did not specifically address accusations of their handling of security threats, but a representative of the branch denounced the shooting in a statement released via Facebook.

“Our management team has had ongoing and positive communications with the police, and we will continue to work with them as we all want to keep violent crime out of our businesses and community,” said Jay Patel, operations manager of the Waco restaurant.

But the business fallout may not be restricted to just the Waco outlet: The company has also temporarily suspended biker nights at all of its Twin Peaks franchise restaurants across the nation for the foreseeable future.

“We’ll be holding off on any activities like bike night,” Mike Tholen, manager of a Twin Peaks outlet in Kansas, told The Wichita Eagle, even though the site had never had any incidents linked to the event.

Mr. Kaiser said it’s likely the parent company can weather the publicity storm but that the Waco franchise will not.

“I don’t see how an individual location recovers from something like this,” he said. “It sounds like the owner of the location in Waco was choosing to ignore warnings from local law enforcement and the company, but I don’t think this reflects negatively on the overall organization.”

“It’s fascinating to watch how a company handles such an extreme, surprising event,” said Mr. Kaiser. “I think it’s to their credit they reacted quickly and forcefully.”

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