Welcome back to Restaurant Confessionals, where we talk to the unheard voices of the restaurant industry from both the front-of-house (FOH) and back-of-house (BOH) about what really goes on behind the scenes at your favourite establishments. This time, we hear from a waitress at Las Vegas' Heart Attack Grill, a "breastaurant" that lets customers who weigh over 350 lb eat for free. The restaurant's first spokesman, Ernie Hart, died of a heart attack in 2013 and "Big Mike," the most recent face of the brand, was forced to step down after he suffered a non-fatal cardiac arrest. When I saw the ad for this job, I said to my husband, Will you be OK with me flirting with guys? He said, Well you do anyway, so you might as well do it for money. I've been here a few years now. The tips are good and it's great fun. A lot of girls want to work here. We're dressed as hot nurses but it's not like Playboy or Hooters where there's a casting, it's just an interview with the owner and a trial day with the rest of the staff to pick out team players. You don't have to be skinny—we had one girl who was 300 lb. Girls come from Hooters and they're like, I can eat lunch? Nobody's going to weigh me? Nobody's checking my shorts aren't too tight? There's less pressure.
The owner is particular but it's more about personality. Anyone who applies, he checks their Facebook. If your profile's on private, he thinks you're hiding something. If you're drinking and smoking and flipping a finger, you're not the sort of person he wants here. I told a friend to clean up her photos before applying. She didn't and she never heard back. You're around alcohol—customers offer you drinks. The owner wants to know you won't be getting smashed behind the counter. Hundreds of girls apply but you can count on one hand the number who are taken on. We call the customers patients and if they don't finish their food, we spank them with a wooden paddle. That's my favourite part—I turn their asses purple. Customers thank me, it's quicker than therapy and cheaper than a dominatrix. If we couldn't spank people anymore, I would seriously resign.
If customers don't finish their food, we spank them with a wooden paddle. That's my favourite part—I turn their asses purple. Customers thank me, it's quicker than therapy and cheaper than a dominatrix.
Some guys enjoy it too much. They want every nurse to spank them! They come in and they're like, Can we just put on the hospital gown and get spanked? We'll pay you. We're like, No, we're not really that sort of place. One guy I spanked, he gave me a hug then started grabbing my butt, trying to get all up there. It's like, no, that's not cool! The owner is serious about patients wearing their hospital gowns. If he saw someone taking a photo without one, he'd be mad about it. He likes titties though, and if a woman has big boobs, he sometimes lets her wear the gown back to front so he can see them. Customers over 350 lb eat free. We weigh them on scales in the centre of the restaurant. We get around ten people a day coming in for a free burger, including homeless people—don't ask me how they get that big! Some of them feel shy about getting weighed but you can't hide the fact you're over 400 lb, especially if you're wearing Spandex If they argue that I can see how big they are, I say, I don't give a shit if you're fat, you have to be over 350 lb. I don't know if anyone's put weights in their pockets. I'm not patting anybody down! If they're really nice, but just under the target weight, I give them some condiments to hold, so they make it. The heaviest man I've weighed was 710 lb and the heaviest woman was 689 lb. We even had two couples on a double date—all of them over 350 lb. They got weighed for a free dinner. We have regulars who eat here free every week. Some people come in to watch the fat people getting weighed. They say, When are the fat people coming in? I say, When they get hungry! It's not a circus! We had to put another scale outside because so many people came here to get weighed and take photos but didn't order anything. Now the one outside is the most popular spot for photos on Fremont Street. People sit outside the bar next door, watching. I go there on my break sometimes. The food here is seriously fattening. When I first started, I had a shot of butterfat shake every day—not even a whole shake—and I put on 8 lb in two months. It's the highest butterfat ever—we tried to get higher but it froze our machine, it was too thick.
We get around ten people a day coming in for a free burger, including homeless people—don't ask me how they get that big! Some of them feel shy about getting weighed but you can't hide the fact you're over 400 lb, especially if you're wearing Spandex.
All our drinks are high in sugar. I had a guy who ordered a quadruple burger and asked for a Diet Coke—like, what? We don't even do those! Some customers say they're diabetic so they can't have the sugar. I say, You want a water? They say, No, I'll have a shake! A butterfat shake! I don't even understand that. I've called an ambulance three times for customers who've had coronaries. I've gone home feeling shitty, like, I served the guy this food and it's killed him. Now I think, they're adults, they can take responsibility for themselves. They've chosen to eat here. It's the kids I feel sorry for, being fed junk. Adults know better and they have a choice—kids don't. One guy, John Alleman, we have his ashes here behind the bar. He ate his lunch here every day for over a year, then had a coronary outside. He was a security guard somewhere on Fremont Street, he used to stand outside telling people how great this place was. We weren't even paying him. In the end, we said he could be our spokesman. His family brought his ashes here when he died.
It's not hushed up—the owner doesn't think it's bad press. He's built a reputation on it: Come here, we'll give you a coronary! He gets John's ashes out in videos sometimes. He says, Here are our ashes, this is our death toll. McDonald's, what's yours? People think he's crazy but actually, he's a genius. He used to work in fitness and nutrition but no one listened. This place is like a last ditch attempt to get through to people. When someone stands on the scales and they tip 350 lb, everyone's around them, hollering. He says, If that doesn't get through to them, nothing will! He's making a point and it works. I've had guys send me pictures six months later saying, Look at me, I've lost 20lb!
As told to Samantha Rea.
This post originally appeared on MUNCHIES in July 2015.