Hooters’ Location and Menu Refurbishment
Everyone knows Hooters. Whether you’ve never visited the restaurant or are there every Friday night, the brand is well known as an American pop culture icon.
The concept burst on the scene in Clearwater, Florida in 1983, quickly drawing national attention— and in some circles, notoriety—for its tank-top and orange-shorts-clad servers. Today, one can credibly argue that the Hooters Girl are some of the most recognizable figures in the U.S. hospitality industry.
From roadside beach shack to global brand with over 430 locations worldwide and growing, the saga is as colorful as it is improbable.
To fully appreciate the brand today it’s helpful to understand where it came from.
Self-proclaimed as “the happiest accident in restaurant history”, the concept was the result of its founders’ quest to find a restaurant where they could drink beer and never get kicked out. The conclusion was that the only sure path to success would be to build a place of their own.
No, we’re not kidding.From the name inspired by one of comedian Steve Martin’s bits in the 1980s to the wood interior, and even the Christmas lights—which were not a deliberate choice, but a holdover from one Christmas—the Hooters’ brand became distinct almost immediately.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Today the brand is owned by Hooters of America, LLC, but its original founders are still active with the concept and own and operate over twenty locations under a license agreement with HOA.
Of the over 430 locations worldwide, the Atlanta-based Hooters of America owns and operates 194. HOA is owned by HIG Capital.
Built to Last
Success breeds imitation. This truism applies more aptly to the restaurant industry than most.
It wasn’t long after its opening before Hooters’ knockoffs proliferated, eager to capitalize on a newly discovered insight: guys liked hot wings and cold beer served by attractive women sporting beachwear.
In the 34 years that followed, the quest to replicate the Hooters formula for success has proven an elusive endeavor. The list of tombstones is too long to enumerate here, however, a mere handful achieved some modest success. The clear majority came and went quickly and none have come close to realizing success on the scale of Hooters.
What is it about Hooters that has made it so enduring? To many, the simple answer is that sex sells. Sex appeal has proven effective in hawking all manner of products yet, somewhat ironically, it has been found lacking as a strategy to replicate the Hooters magic.
Despite this common wisdom, one can only conclude that the simple answer is not the right answer. It seems there is more to the enduring appeal of Hooters than female sex-appeal alone—much more in fact.
“Hooters makes you happy,” shared Jim Parrish, COO. “It sounds trite but it’s true. Hooters Girls are all about hospitality. They are engaging and fun. They understand that their role is to ensure our guests leave with smiles on their faces.
“Hooters is an indulgent brand. The heart of our menu is great American food: wings, beer, burgers, and seafood. Our guests come to relax, hang out, and maybe watch a game. Alone or with a group, whatever the occasion, the Hooters Girl is the not-so-secret ingredient that makes it better.”
Design UpgradesSince 2014, Hooters has remodeled over 100 of its properties and has introduced its rejuvenated design in over 50 new locations. The goal is to bring the brand into the 21st century without losing what makes Hooters, well, Hooters.
“We were born at the beach in Clearwater Florida in 1983, and we want to stay true to that heritage,” said Parrish. “But we also want to contemporize the environment. We want it to be fun, relaxed, and welcoming to all.”
Hooters isn’t a cookie-cutter restaurant, so each revitalization is a little different. The redesign focuses on a top-notch AV presentation, more and bigger windows that allow more natural light, outdoor patios where possible, and plenty of local touches like murals painted by artists from the community.
“Localization is important to us,” said Parrish. “In a new store or after a remodel about half of our table tops are themed, and several of them will be localized. All our restaurants should be instantly recognizable as Hooters, but we want people to feel like their Hooters is their Hooters.”
One of the first things a visitor to a new or remodeled location will recognize is the bar. Hooters has offered a full bar in all its locations for years, but Parrish and his team are upping the experience in a big way.
“With the redesign, we can now offer a high-energy bar experience,” shared Parrish. “At our older stores, the bar was situated in a manner that caused guests to stare into the kitchen. We want the bar to be the center of the vibe at our restaurants. And with the premium sports programming we offer, we’re the best location for game day.”
The large center island or u-shaped bars with comfortable seating and a full display of available liquor—not to mention every sporting event on the numerous, large HDTVs—have proven very popular with guests.
Further evidence of the brand’s commitment to a great bar experience is the vast selection of beer choices found in today’s Hooters.
“Our refurbished and new locations have a minimum of 24 tap handles and many have up to 40,” Parrish said. “The beer category is changing fast and our guests want variety. In addition to national favorites we can now offer local craft brews, which further supports our localization strategy. We’ve really upped our game.”
You know what else is important to guests? Good food.
Hooters is famous for its “Hooters-Style” wings, and they are as popular today as they have ever been. Yet, just like at the bar, Hooters management has upgraded the quality and variety of its food menu.
The menu features several new appetizers as well as a line of entree salads. Perhaps most notable however has been the launch—and ensuing success—of Hooters Smoked Wings. Hooters CMO Carl Sweat points out that they not only taste great, the calorie count is half that of Hooters traditional wings.
“Calorie count was not what motivated us to launch the product,” said Sweat, “but it was a happy coincidence. We launched Smoked Wings because of how guests responded in our test markets. They told us they absolutely loved the taste. Our U.S. franchise system is currently in the process of rolling them nationally.”
Craveable food, an upgraded bar experience, and a comfortable contemporary design have combined to re-energize the iconic brand. Hooters is expected to continue its accelerated pace of growth and open 20 to 30 new locations in each of the next three years. In addition to the U.S., the Hooters brand will expand its footprint internationally, particularly in Asia and Latin America.
Said Parrish, “We’re not changing the essence of who we are, but we are committed to continuously improving our experience to meet changing consumer expectations. It’s an exciting time at Hooters. Our growth is allowing the greatest brand ambassadors in the world—Hooters Girls—to make more people happy in more places than ever before.”
“Oh, and by the way, the food is great too.”
At Hooters, you'll find craveable food and wings, cold beer, sports, and of course, Hooters Girls.