If you’re aware of the breastaurant trend, then you know that Hooter-style places are cropping up all over the country. Each chain offers its own versions, such as featuring Mexican cuisine, having waitresses dress up in kilts, or often displaying large TVs where patrons can watch sports games live.
And that’s just one of the problems with Hooters. It’s now more than 3 decades old, and today it’s showing its age. It’s facing a lot of competition and for many its style and image is now tired and outdated. The entire breastaurant niche is exploding at a double-digit rate, and for the last few years Hooters have seen their sales decline.
So what’s the plan for the Hooters Makeover?
· The Uniform. The Hooters uniform is an icon, with the skimpy orange shorts, tight white shorts, and the owl design of Hootie. But it all needs an upgrade, because they don’t really look all that good compared to the tartan outfit of the Tilted Kilt bar.
The plan is to change the uniforms without changing the classic orange and white colors identified with the brand. But the shorts may sport a different cut, the shirts may have a different shape, and even Hootie’s design may be modified. Belts may also be added. Some suggest changing the shorts to a miniskirt, while others think to do away with the baggy white socks or the pantyhose. And there are those who adamantly insist that things remain the way they are.
Of course, lots of fans (and foes) will have a say, and Hooters can use the debate to fuel its social media exposure. Maybe people can cast their votes so that they can be part of the decision-making.
· The Food. With lots of competitors emphasizing the quality of their dishes, Hooters has no choice but to follow suit. There was a time when they only offered a tiny side salad as the sole salad option. And they were even still selling frozen burger patties and chicken wings.
Those days must end, especially in these days when the number of foodies has grown. The company began its food makeover by offering new entrée salads along with value lunch and late night menus, seasonal fresh Maine lobster rolls, and sautéed mushrooms.
But they need to do more, or places like Ojos Locos with their fine Mexican food which leave Hooters in the dust.
· The Look. Restaurants and bars have to really upgrade their place every few years to make it seem fresh for their patrons. And you have to admit that Hooters hasn’t really done that through its more than 30 years in the industry.
They have to target their décor and technologies to Millennials, and that means excellent entertainment systems (TVs and speakers) for those watching sports games on screen. Outdoor dining options should be explored. And bar stools need backs and cushions for a more relaxing stay for patrons.
· The Name. According to one pop culture expert, the biggest detriment to a Hooters makeover is the name of the brand itself. It’s been an emblem of the breastaurant niche, and that means it has acted as the lightning rod for every accusation of sexual objectification of women. Attacking Hooters is to attack the entire industry. And people who may enjoy the concept may just go to a competitor than to visit the Hooter location—the stigma can be a bit too much.
But the problem is that the company can’t very well change the name. After all, the name has achieved wide recognition and it doesn’t make sense to get rid of the bay along with the bath water.
So what’s to be done about the name? If they can’t change it, then they need to change its image. And the Hooters image is a bit confused. While the chain is the granddaddy of the niche, they’ve been busily promoting it as a place fit for families. Their uniforms aren’t as sexy now either.
In contrast, their competitors have become more brazen. They target young men who love to watch sports on TV while munching on traditional bar food. They offer beer served by attractive women with uniforms much sexier than the Hooters outfit. Sometimes these women even wear lingerie, and in some cases they have even featured women wearing only body paint for their top.
· The Focus. The Hooters brand really needs to concentrate on making over their brand to fit the tastes of younger men. These guys think of Hooters as a place where their Daddy went, and this time they have much cooler alternatives to go to.
So Hooters may want to rethink about dealing with various distractions. A few years ago they company tried to launch an airline, and that venture cost the company $40 million. In recent years, the company has also been part of a reality TV show. And now they have to deal with sexual harassment suits from a couple of male former employees.
Hooters need to prove that they still deserve their status as the biggest and best breastaurant in the business. Will they succeed? Only time will tell.