Bloomberg Businessweek recently took a look at the economic state of Hooters, the chain known for buxom servers, orange shorts and jokes about wings. A dwindling clientele from a fairly constrained demographic (i.e., men) is contributing to declining revenue for the chain in the States (it peaked at $960 million annually in 2007, and dropped to $858 million last year). The solution? Hooters, that casual-dining bastion of the frat-house sensibility, needs to attract a female clientele.
John Gordon, a business consultant working with Hooters, put it succinctly to Businessweek: “Face it, females are 51 per cent of the population…. They’ve enjoyed more employment growth, and you can’t ignore them.” To bring women in, Hooters has doubled the number of salads on the menu to six (women love salads, apparently) and replaced iceberg-laden options with mixed greens, spinach and herbs. Wings and burgers will also now be fresh, not frozen, and an expanded list of cocktails and wines will supplement the usual suspects at the bar (i.e., pitchers upon pitchers of beer). Renovations are taking place too, including big windows (to show that there’s nothing to hide), ground-level patios and big, flat-screen televisions (NFL games and UFC bouts are apparently huge draws for couples).
We called Jimmy Chan, general manager of several Ontario Hooters locations, who explained that his locations were holding steady overall, with some seeing revenue gains and some seeing losses. He’s still deciding whether to import all the new changes happening south of the border (a new liquor and cocktail selection is on the way, while new menu items and renovations are TBD), but it seems the family-friendly winds of change are blowing all the way to John Street. Still, don’t expect Hooters to completely sell its frat-house soul to lure female diners—the orange shorts are here to stay.