Iconic “breastaurant” chain Hooters is doing what it can to stay relevant, and in 2019, that means swapping orange booty shorts for khakis.
Famous for its wings and scantily-clad waitresses, the restaurant is attempting to branch into more family-friendly territory with the expansion of Hoots, the company’s new fast-casual dining chain, Today reported. Following the sale of Hooters’ franchiser and operator, Hooters of America, LLC, to investment companies Nord Bay Capital and TriArtisan Capital Advisors, the company’s new owners are looking to revamp the restaurant’s image by focusing on its more PG concept.
The first Hoots location opened outside Chicago in 2017. The counter-service restaurant serves an abbreviated menu featuring many of Hooters’ most popular items, including the restaurant’s classic Buffalo chicken wings, buffalo chicken sandwiches, fried shrimp and snow crab legs. Targeted at families, millennials and your average diner who isn’t necessarily interested in ogling the waitstaff, the Hooters’ offshoot differs primarily from its parent restaurant in terms of the staff. Unlike Hooters’ all-female team of tank-top clad front-of-house employees, Hoots employs both female and male servers who sport a much more modest uniform of t-shirts and khakis.
“It’s a logical extension of the brand and [opening more Hoots] will provide more people with more opportunities to enjoy our world famous wings,” Hooters of America CEO Terry Marks told Nation’s Restaurant News when the first Hoots location opened back in 2017.
Now the company is looking to expand the Hoots concept, with plans to open new locations in Chicago and Atlanta. While, as Today notes, Hooters’ retained stake in the company makes it unlikely that the restaurant will abandon its more provocative origins entirely, the Hoots offshoot has emerged as a way for the iconic brand to appeal to a more socially conscious generation.
“I think this is a great opportunity for the brand to start transitioning away from the original Hooters, which will be a lot easier to execute than simply re-branding all of the current Hooters locations,” Doug Radkey, the owner and lead consultant of Key Restaurant Group, told Today. “This is a step in the right direction of becoming more in line with the social consciousness of the increasing majority of today’s population.”
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