If you love Buffalo wings, but hate objectifying women Hooters has decided it doesn’t want to give up on your business entirely. A major franchisee of the restaurant/bar considerably more famous for its mandatory uniforms than its food announced plans to open a somewhat dressed down – or in this case, maybe dressed up – fast-casual version of the restaurant, called Hoots.
In an effort to compete with less formal wing joints, Hoots will showcase a more limited menu of some of the chain’s most popular items like chicken wings, fries and crab legs, served at a counter – by both female and male employees. From there, customers can either take their grub to go or settle into one of the 75 seats expected at the inaugural location in Cicero, Illinois. This initial spot will also feature a 12-seat full-service bar for guys who might be able to enjoy wings without looking at scantily clad women, but certainly couldn’t enjoy them without beer.
“It’s sort of a flex model,” said Neil Keifer, CEO of HMC, owner of 25 Hooters franchises, according to Nation’s Restaurant News. “But it’ll be predominantly fast casual. We’re anxious to see how that works.” Keifer also stressed that his company is working with the national chain’s top brass on the concept. “We are very supportive of this initiative,” Hooters of America CEO Terry Marks was quoted as saying. “It’s a logical extension of the brand and will provide more people with more opportunities to enjoy our world famous wings.” If the first Hoots goes over well, more could open in the future.
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Keifer said the concept, which has been in the works for three years, has a lot of potential upsides: Not only has fast casual been a stronger restaurant segment recently than traditional sit-down chains, but these smaller, cheaper Hoots are far more flexible when it comes to choosing locations.
But will people be interested in a Hooters without its – um – “hooters?” Keifer said takeout already accounts for 14 percent of his business, and is as high as 25 in some locations. So, “We’ll find out soon,” he quipped. It seems possible. A lot has changed since Hooters debuted in the 1980s. And if customers absolutely have to see breasts while eating, they always have their smartphones.
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