SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ – There is a new pub in town.
The Tilted Kilt Eatery and Pub is now open in the South Brunswick Square Mall on Route 1.
Between 250 and 300 people showed up for a VIP reception at the business Wednesday evening to sample the cuisine and take a look at the beautiful ladies serving it up.
Franchise owners Raj and Navina Patel, from Montgomery, are betting the location on Route 1, and the fact that this is a national chain, will turn the luck of the shopping plaza around.
Since changing from Rumbleseats in the late 1990s, the restaurant has gone through several genres and ownership.
Following Rumbleseats, it became a Ground Round, which went out of business in the early 2000s, to Banditos, which lasted about three years before being bought by a bariatric surgeon, who transformed the place into both a steakhouse and then a Tex-Mex pub, named El Dorado, before calling it quits in the last several years.
Despite the obvious challenges, the Patels believe the new incarnation will take hold and be a part of their operation, which could include up to 10 other locations in the region.
Raj, 54, and Navina, 40, said they were seeking sites for the new venture for some time before arriving at the Route 1 location.
“We thought being on Route 1 would be a great, great, location for us,” Raj Patel said.
His wife, Navina, said there was nothing like this in the township, and there was a “need for this.”
"We got the whole community involved and they said this place was needed,” she said.
Raj said the failures of the past attempts at a restaurant were due more to a lack of experience in the field than a lack of need.
While her husband is an engineer by trade, Navina has spent the last 19 or so years in the restaurant business.
“I have been doing the restaurant business for the last 19 years,” Navina said. “We are ready for this and are very excited.”
Business backers and friends were invited to the “invitation only” reception Wednesday night.
Many patrons attending gave the place a “thumbs up.”
The business also chose the local Hugs For Brady Charity as its own.
Township residents Mike and Sherrie Wells started the foundation after the death of their young son, Brady, following a battle with a rare form of leukemia.
The charity, which helps young people with cancer, has raised more than $1 million in its first four years of operation.
Mike and Sherrie both attended the reception and said they were happy to include the restaurant in the fold of local sponsors for the cause.
After going through several interviews and putting in a week of training, it was a night filled with the excitement of proving what they had learned for the 40 someodd girls chosen.
One server, 20, from Jamesburg, is currently working two jobs to put herself through school.
She said she is paying $20,000 per year for her undergraduate degree and is looking at about $45,000 per year to pursue a law degree.
Nicole Shultz, 17, from Monmouth Junction, is currently working as a hostess, but hopes to become a server, and eventually, a bartender.
“Our training was very intense,” she said. “They know exactly what they are doing.”
She said the atmosphere “was great.”
“I was expecting the very happy, upbeat environment,” she said.
Brittany Guben, 20, from East Brunswick, said it “was so fun” going through the process to become a “kilt girl.”
“They actually care about us,” she said. “They care about what is actually going on in our lives.”
She said the training was devoted to making the servers “the best they can be.”
“(This event) was putting all that hard work to the test,” she said. “It has been a great experience.”
General Manager Jim Alberts, from New Hope, Pennsylvania, said he has been with the corporation for about three months and is excited for the opportunity to run the restaurant.
“This is great. We were received (well) by everyone in town,” he said. “Much better than I ever thought we would.”
He said that while people may perceive the business in a certain way, it is no different than other chains.
“It is a family restaurant,” he said with a smile. “With better assets.”
He said the business wants to become part of the fabric of the South Brunswick community and is planning several events along that line.