THERE ARE THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF FOOD BLOGS, BUT ONLY ONE CULINARY NO-NO!
True confession. I’ve been here.
Not once. But twice.
In Greenfield and in Madison.
My primary reason was just to have lunch with colleagues. The biggest memory I have is how surprisingly good I found the smothered chicken sandwich.
That was back in the 1990’s. More than 20 years later the anti-Hooters attitude hasn’t changed. It’s expanded.
Hooters opened in 1983 in Clearwater, FL. According to Hooters’ history six businessmen with no previous restaurant experience decided to open a place they couldn’t get thrown out of.
The restaurant would feature their favorite finger foods with 50’s and 60’s music, lots of wood, and of course, the Hooters Girls, the name inspired from a comedy sketch by Steve Martin. Even some of the wives of the businessmen supplied ideas for the restaurant.
One of the guy’s secretary who loved to jog was often seen doing so in shorts, and the uniform concept was born, with skimpy tops, light tan tights, and white baseball shoes.
Today Hooters has grown to more than 460 locations across 44 states. But these aren’t the 80’s and 90’s.
When Hooters debuted in the United Kingdom in the previous decade feminists went crazy.
“Hooters is and intends to be more like a lap-dance club than a family restaurant,” said Finn MacKay of the Feminist Coalition Against Prostitution. “Without the sexualized waiters and the soft porn and sport on display, what would men go for? They can get better and cheaper chicken wings in KFC.”
Kirsty Bowen campaigned against the opening of a Hooters in Sheffield.
“The very fact that they are called Hooters speaks for itself,” said Bowen. “The men in Hooters, especially those on stag weekends, create the wrong kind of atmosphere for a family-friendly area in Sheffield. An increase in antisocial behavior is the least we can expect. If we are to challenge the high levels of violence against women, we need to end this kind of objectification of women, not invite it on to our high streets.”
Hooter Girls are required to sign a contract.
“I hereby acknowledge and affirm that the Hooters concept is based on female sex appeal and that the work environment is one in which joking and innuendo based on female sex appeal is commonplace. I also expressly acknowledge and affirm I do not find my job duties, uniform requirements or work environment to be intimidating, hostile or unwelcome.”
Feminist-vegan Carol J. Adams has written “The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist Vegetarian Critical Theory.”
“What this document is making clear is that the women at Hooters should expect to be sexually harassed, and put up and shut up,” said Adams.
As successful as the $2 billion chain has been they’ve been on a downward slope. By 2011, they had closed 35 locations and lost an annual revenue of more than $100 million. Between 2012 and 2016 they closed a further seven percent of their locations.
A survey company in 2013 asked customers to rate Hooters on a scale of 100 to -100.
Not a shocker, women rated the chain at a pretty sad -21.
Here’s the factor contributing to the recent Hooters’ decline. When surveyed the guys scored at an almost equally sad 2. After 30 years of the pioneering breastarant, men are now offended, too.
At a time when the movement #MeToo has picked up steam and publicity, the issue of sexual harassment is top of mind like never before. As a result, orange hot pants and low-cut tops are immediate red flags.
“It makes the degradation of women appear playful and harmless… thus everyone can enjoy the degradation of women without being honest,” said author Adams.
Hooters counters by claiming lawsuits filed against them have been minimal.
Another analysis of people between 18 and 24 years, the target audience for Hooters, discovered they were the least likely to be looking for entertainment that was breast-centric. Millennials just aren’t interested. That’s critical because of the famous Hooters ensemble.
Hooters has noticed and is trying to adjust.
THE UNIFORMS: Shorts stay orange, tops stay white. Everything else could see some alterations. Possible changes: belts, getting rid of panty hose and white socks, and making the shorts look like skirts.
THE FOOD: New entrée salads, seasonal fresh Maine lobster rolls and new late-night and value lunch menus.
THE LOOK: All restaurants will be remodeled. More windows and outdoor dining. Most will re-do the bar area as islands. And seat backs and cushions will be added onto bar stools.
THE NAME: “For many people, the name Hooters is tantamount to a stop sign,” said Robert Thompson, professor of pop culture at Syracuse University. Personally, I can’t see a change happening here.
Marketing Chief Dave Henninger says it could be this simple. Hooters must do what it does best, “wings, beer and friends. Our strategy may have wavered over time.”
Could it win back female customers? Tayler Williams, a 25-year-old psychology student from Birmingham, Ala., makes it clear she’s not embarrassed at all to be seen eating at Hooters.
“I come to Hooters because men come to Hooters.”
I’m slightly amused at the outrage against Hooters. I liken it to the letters to the editor section in Sports Illustrated the week after their annual swimsuit issue is published. You’d think we were living in the 1920’s and civilization was about to disappear.
Honestly, I’ve seen less clothing while waiting for my order at Bartolotta’s Northpoint Custard at Bradford Beach. Heck, I can say the same about some joggers in my subdivision.
I’m not a pig but I’m also not a prude. My father used to jokingly say, “The day I stop looking is the day they bury me.”
While Hooters goes back to the drawing board, similar breastarants like Twin Peaks and Tilted Kilt are actually enjoying numerous grand openings. That’s why Hooters’ obituaries would be premature.
“They’re still the granddaddy of the category,” said Ron Ruggless, Southwest bureau chief at the trade publication Nation’s Restaurant News. “They can’t be discounted.”
CULINARY NO-NO BONUS