Hooters’ Big Experiment: New Menu, New Decor and a New Target Audience

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Hooters is trying to revitalize its brand after increased competition from other so-called breastaurants.

Over the past several years, Hooters’ sales have been on the decline. So the “breastaurant” is now undergoing a three-to-five-year revitalization plan, which will include an updated menu, renovated restaurants and an attempt to attract a demographic that has not historically patronized Hooters in large numbers: women.

In 2008, Hooters had 400 restaurants bringing in revenue of about $960 million. But the recession, plus the rise of competitors like Twin Peaks and the Tilted Kilt, began chipping away at sales — and at Hooters’ decades-long dominance in the male-driven sector of restaurants featuring wings, beer and shapely women. By last year the number of outlets had dipped to 365 and revenue had fallen to $858 million, according to industry analyst Technomic. The only growth Hooters has seen over the past few years has been outside the U.S.

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So Hooters will spend the next several years trying to update its brand. It started by changing its tagline to “Feed the dream.” It hired HBO’s Eastbound & Down creator Jody Hill to direct new TV spots that include ESPN football analyst Jon Gruden. It unveiled a revamped menu that includes salads, burgers and an “expanded line” of chicken wings. And it plans to remodel about 25 stores each year.

“They’re taking a new approach to the marketplace,” says Darren Tristano of Technomic. “The brand has been very dominant, but they have set the stage for competitors to come in with a more contemporary concept.”

One of those more contemporary competitors is Tilted Kilt, a Celtic-themed pub chain that brought in about $124 million in sales last year. Tilted Kilt locations tend to be much newer than competing Hooters restaurants, some of which are decades old and haven’t been renovated since the ’80s.

“For years they’ve only been working toward Generation X, but now they need to try to get Millennials to come through the doors,” says Tristano.

And female customers. Since its founding, Hooters has essentially targeted one demographic: men. But that leaves 50% of the market entirely ignored.

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“Historically, the lion’s share [of the brand’s] position was all about the girls,” CMO Dave Henninger told Advertising Age. “It’s worked relatively well, but we see ourselves in a bigger place than that.”

To reach that place, Hooters will likely need to do more than merely update the decor, Tristano says. Menu options beyond standard pub fare like wings and burgers would be a good start, for example. He suggests they’ll even experiment with more ethnic-style foods.

But the biggest challenge may be holding onto the customers Hooters already has while trying to draw in a younger and more female demographic. Tristano sums it up this way: “How do you appeal to a new generation without pissing off the generation that’s coming in the doors?”

70 comments
harleylovinchelley
harleylovinchelley

All the Hooters restaurants I have visited were fun places. People were there for the purpose of having fun. Joking and laughing were encouraged. The girls loved it when someone had a birthday. It gave them a chance to play pranks. Families would come in with children and the girls would grab helium balloons for the kids. I do feel it is time to begin changing the decor. And if they would offer a day-evening when kids ate free, it would help to draw more families. The uniforms could use an upgrading as well. Far be it from me to say what it should be, but I agree a change is in order there as well. Going sexier may not be the answer.

SlapHappyDude
SlapHappyDude

Perhaps they should update the outfits too?

Women like fashion. I imagine women are far more tolerant of sexist uniforms if they are flattering and "cute". The "hooters girl" just doesn't have much cultural cache these days, and I have to imagine the outdated uniform is a huge part of the problem. Orange short-shorts and pantyhose? In 2012? Even as a straight male *I* know that's dated.

Carter69
Carter69

All these restaurants are beating hooters because their outfits are better and instead of getting sluttier hooters decides to, wait for it, target women. Yeah, this will work. I like to pretend the free market works, and I guess it will when they go out of business, but if companies just ignored politically correct they could make money hand over fist. 

Carter69
Carter69

All these restaurants are beating hooters because their outfits are better and instead of getting sluttier hooters decides to, wait for it, target women. Yeah, this will work. Jesus Christ executives are idiots. I like to pretend the free market works, and I guess it will when they go out of business, but if companies just ignored politically correct they could make money hand over fist. 

Carter69
Carter69

All these restaurants are beating hooters because their outfits are better and instead of getting sluttier hooters decides to, wait for it, target women. Yeah, this will work. Jesus Christ executives are idiots. I like to pretend the free market works, and I guess it will when they go out of business, but if companies just ignored politically correct they could make money hand over fist. 

Carter69
Carter69

All these restaurants are beating hooters because their outfits are better and instead of getting sluttier hooters decides to, wait for it, target women. Yeah, this will work. Jesus Christ executives are idiots. I like to pretend the free market works, and I guess it will when they go out of business, but if companies just ignored politically correct they could make money hand over fist.

Cory Frye
Cory Frye

Hate to break it to ya, Darren Tristano (any relation to Lennie?), but even us Xers thought Hooters was a ridiculously tired concept.

HawkJRL
HawkJRL

I think it is debatable that the Hooters girls are attractive at all.  They might be HWP, but other than that they are expected to conform to some silly narrow notion of an "all- American girl"...but when was the last time you saw a woman walking down in street in  orange shorts with pantyhose.  An old Hooters dress code policy is online...amusing reading.  No "strange" haircuts are allowed.  While some people might like to go to a place where the women are expected to conform to a narrow standard of  what attractive is..many find that boring

I think if Hooters wanted to attract more women, they'd have a more diverse image for the waitstaff.

Ben IncaHutz
Ben IncaHutz

There is a new chain of restaurants catering to females called "Nuggets".  The waiters are all male. The uniform is extra small T-shirts and barely there boxers(without underwear).  All the chairs are bar stools. When the waiter comes and takes your order, he puts his right leg up on one of the support beams underneath your bar stool.  That way you can see his "Nuggets".

The new chain will open their first restaurants in Texas because everything is bigger in Texas. Including the "nuggets".

ExSCRepublican
ExSCRepublican

I always heard that food was a loss leader at Hooters

Talendria
Talendria

Isn't this like trying to reinvent the Playboy Club?  It is what it is, and its time has passed.

Sara Rose
Sara Rose

This is like trying to attract women to a lap-dancing bar.

MaryWaterton
MaryWaterton

What a joke! Next thing you know Hooters will be "revitalizing" its image to portray themselves as a family restaurant.

John Gordon Eaton
John Gordon Eaton

I would have worded it "Big Hooter's experiment". The follow up article a year from now might be titled "Hooters' falls down!"

david_d1
david_d1

I wish there was a Hooters here so I'd have a choice.

Palladia
Palladia

Is there any job, other than being an actor in an exotic movie, that would require a man to be certified to a certain level of junk size?  Anything at all?

Palladia
Palladia

Is there any job whatsoever, other than being an actor in a porn movie, that would require a man to be certified to a certain amount of hungness?  Anything?

scum1
scum1

It's not that the business model is not a good one. Twin Peaks is very similar but offers a better menu and is always packed. It is a growing company.  Hooters has good wings in a sports bar atmosphere. It is no where near a strip club and in fact not all the girls have big breast.  My wife has been and has no problem with it. They actually have pretty good burgers and salads already.  As for the "objectification of women" well last time I checked these women applied for this job and were not forced into it. A lot of these girls are college students and are far from being tramps and such. Based on some of the comments here from the more prudish it seems they have much less respect for women than the people who visit Hooters.

Dy
Dy

Hooter's has had no real competition for years and it's showing. They tried much harder in the 90's when they were growing. I go a few times a yr to different locations, and they typically have poor service and now most places like Wing House have better wings and nicer looking staff. I'm hearing Tikted Kilt is a way better experience, tho I've never been. 

Martin Krohn
Martin Krohn

How about they upgrade their women? The place is called HOOTERS yet most of the women I've ever seen serving at that place is an A or a B. Often the women have visible cellulite on their legs but are wearing short shorts. Upgrade the menu too since its just not good food. Yes some have 80's decor. Take something from the applebees playbook and at least TRY to incorporate local sports in the horrible decor

Guys Gab
Guys Gab

We used to have one a few miles from here, but I rarely went because the food was garbage and the girls weren't much to write home about.

If they follow through and update the menus, I'd be willing to give it another shot.

dek
dek

I think hooters brand is antiquated. Sure, at one time it was probably considered the "hot" trend. But why should people pay for bland food just for the opportunity to stare at half naked women they can see half naked every day at the bank, the grocery, or any other place around town? I can go to the local wing joint up the road and see more cleavage and have better food.

suz2600
suz2600

put some hot guys in tank tops and tight jeans and I'll be glad to join my husband at Hooter's, why should guys be the only ones enjoying the "atmosphere"? that would be the only reason I would go...until then I'll stick with Buffalo Wild Wings or any other local joint where both genders are targeted and valued.

mmeowza
mmeowza

As a female, you couldn't pay me enough to eat at a Hooters.  It is essentially the same concept as a strip club, and my husband knows I would give him hell if he ever went there.

rdfInOP
rdfInOP

I admit I've been to Hooters exactly once.  It was the day after I saw a 20/20 piece on the place and I just had to see it for myself (yep, it's that bad).

What amazed me was the total lack of decor.  The furniture was a bunch of 2x4s screwed together with sheet rock screws.  The place wasn't that old and it was already pretty rickety.  there was nothing on the walls except a half dozen sports posters in cheap frames.  I've seen more thought go into dorm rooms.

 

So all they need to do is change, their menu, decor, name and philosophy.

Mike Wicklund
Mike Wicklund

how do people who are put off by a business and say they never go, or would go ,have enough knowledge of the business to make such outlandish comments.  Dr. Jan, its ok if you wish to choose to go elsewhere, but the anger in your response may lead us to think it's more than moral judgement? 

As Eddie Murphy would attest "My honor the **** is ugly"  - Court adjourned! 

Robert Gary
Robert Gary

Not sure what they are talking about. When I'm in a Hooters I generally count around and find at least 25% of the customers are women.

RavenMadd
RavenMadd

I think this is great. Hooters is a fun place. Perhaps, @Dr. Jan Itor, you should not take yourself so seriously. The girls that work there are attractive, but at the end of the day- that is not the ONLY reason people go there. And as a woman, I find nothing offensive about that place because of the type of employee that works there- maybe you feel insecure about their level of attractiveness and thus the attention that comes with it. The only thing I have noticed over the years is that the waitresses are not very friendly to female customers, I may not care to stare at your Tamp;A my entire dining experience, but I do care to have good serivce. That would be my only complaint.

RavenMadd
RavenMadd

I think this is great. Hooters is a fun place. Perhaps, @Dr. Jan Itor, you should not take yourself so seriously. The girls that work there are attractive, but at the end of the day- that is not the ONLY reason people go there. And as a woman, I find nothing offensive about that place because of the type of employee that works there- maybe you feel insecure about their level of attractiveness and thus the attention that comes with it. The only thing I have noticed over the years is that the waitresses are not very friendly to female customers, I may not care to stare at your Tamp;A my entire dining experience, but I do care to have good serivce. That would be my only complaint.

Palladia
Palladia

Somehow, I don't think I'll be going to that one, either.  But out of curiosity, how do you suppose "waiter at Nugget's" will look on a resume? 

Martin Krohn
Martin Krohn

 Sad that HOOTERS hires so many flat chested women. Rename it to something with legs in the name if you wont require a C cup minimum.

Boxingwithangels
Boxingwithangels

 I agree.  I doubt most women will be interested in going to a Hooters unless they change the wait staff to men too.   But even then, they are still leaving out the families with children demographic.   Can't have it all Hooters, unless you change your name and scratch your whole theme.

Martin Krohn
Martin Krohn

My guesstimate is your weight is above 200lbs and you're clearly intimidated. Since you're so ugly you should at least give your husband something to close his eyes and imagine when he's with you.

Xsmoked Outx
Xsmoked Outx

 Damn...you took your husband's man card!!!!  At least give him back his cojones?

hyperion6
hyperion6

 A strip club? Seriously? You see more skin at the beach.  Your issue may be that you're insecure. As most of the "strippers" there are young and attractive women. I personally don't visit Hooters. It's simply too loud for me and the food isn't that great. But it's far from a strip club.

hyperion6
hyperion6

 A strip club? Are you serious? You see more skin on a beach. What's probably upsetting you is that the servers are usually very attractive and young women.  No I don't eat there.  For me it's too loud, etc. But it's very far away from being a strip club.

obbop
obbop

 "same concept as a strip club"

Typical female emotion-laden irrational anti-logic revealing itself.

I would gladly pay more to keep females OUT of the place.

MGTOW (Men Going Their Own Way) has discussed these whiny wacky frivolous females innumerable times and the conclusion is a general rule of male self-defense... it is best to disassociate with females as much as possible.

And we still rue the day when the frivolous fillies, the daffy demented dames attained suffrage in 1920.

Fed_Up18
Fed_Up18

 Thank you for exemplifying exactly why Hooter's is screwed. Between your type of judgment amp;  the whole it's always been "all about the girls,” comment from CMO Dave Henninger- who probably has even *less* of a clue than you do,  there is no way to fix this sort of place.

Palladia
Palladia

One of their problems evidently is that if someone can "count around" readily, they're not doing much of a business.  I was in a Texas Roadhouse last night, and it would have taken a while to count the customers (both genders, a fair number of kids), but they had 21 very busy waitstaff* (both genders) on duty, and assorted other staff there.  From the sound of things, Hooter's would be overjoyed to do the business that "Roadhouse" was doing.

*My companion, himself interested in restaurants, asked me, offhandedly, how many I thought there were.  I guessed a couple of dozen.  He guessed twenty.  I asked our waitress, and she said 21.  His guess was closer than mine.  But it was a pretty busy night, with people waiting to get seated, and that's not unusual.

SlapHappyDude
SlapHappyDude

 I've eaten at hooters a few times out of desperation while traveling (I

like it better than waiting in line for the Olive Garden). I've definitely noticed the waitresses are a lot more attentive when I'm alone or just with men as opposed to a table with mixed genders.

I think a lot of Hooters waitresses aren't hired for their customer service. You're also seeing simple economics at play; the waitress is making a calculated decision that she can bust her ass to give you good service and probably boost her tip by 5%, or go flirt with the eager guys at another table and boost her tip by 10%, 20%, possibly more.

DuckBeach
DuckBeach

Can get so-so food and a bunch of flatscreens anywhere.

I go to Hooters for the breasts

DuckBeach
DuckBeach

Raven, I go for the tits.  

Palladia
Palladia

Fine.  You may have my share, thank you.  Hooters will just have to do its thing without me.  As for Dr. Jan Itor, is it really "taking oneself so seriously" to expect to be treated as something other than, basically, a joke?  If it's all right with you, Ms Madd, fine.  It would not be okay with me.  Diff'rent strokes, as the saying goes. . .

bittelee
bittelee

Yer just jealous!!!! is always a great argument.

Palladia
Palladia

Mr Krohn, would you work someplace that had a size requirement for your, uh, "junk?"  Would you consider that an appropriate criterion for you to be employed?

Palladia
Palladia

Awww. . .   Mr. Krohn, aren't you just a sweetie?  I'm sure that women just love you for your attitude.  Is any willing to put up with you at all?

bittelee
bittelee

Ugh, yes, other women are "intimidated" by the brainy waitresses who work at Hooters. Oh wait, you meant that the only thing important about women are their looks, and that obviously any woman who doesn't buy into this concept must be ugly. Unfortunately for morons like you, the rest of the world doesn't work the way you imagine it does in your dreams.

Palladia
Palladia

"Man card?"  You mean, men are so fragile that they have to have some sort of certification of their masculinity?  Wow.  Poor w'iw guys. 

Carlos Murillo
Carlos Murillo

Aren't we all well-aware of the fact that you choose to apply for a job there? Employees there know what comes with the job, and if they're okay with that, why shouldn't we be?

Palladia
Palladia

I do not choose to apply for a job there, nor do I choose to eat there.

You're okay with that, aren't you?  And since enough people seem to be making that choice, Hooters is apparently gong to change some of its business strategy.

You're okay with that, too, aren't you?

Now, tell me: if there were some sort of job which you could apply for, and your getting it was dependent upon your willingness to be, essentially, a sexual display, would you apply?  If it were men being put on display like that, in just that "tone of voice," would you go there?