Hooters, Inc. is the trade name of two privately held American restaurant chains: Hooters of America, Incorporated, based in Atlanta, Georgia, and Hooters, Incorporated, based in Clearwater, Florida. The Hooters name is a double entendre referring to both its owl logo, a bird known for its "hooting" calls, and an American slang term for human breasts popularized by comedian Steve Martin on the hit comedy series Saturday Night Live.
Hooters is a restaurant whose waiting staff are primarily attractive young women, usually referred to simply as "Hooter Girls", whose revealing outfits and sex appeal are played up and are a primary component of the company's image. The company employs other men and women as cooks, hosts (at some franchises), busboys, and managers. The menu includes hamburgers and other sandwiches, steaks, seafood entrees, appetizers, and the restaurant's specialty, chicken wings. Almost all Hooters restaurants hold alcoholic beverage licenses to sell beer and wine, and, where local permits allow, a full liquor bar. Hooters T-shirts, sweatshirts, and various souvenirs and curios are also sold.
As of 2014 there were more than 460 Hooters company-owned locations and franchises throughout the United States. The company has restaurants in 44 U.S. states, the US Virgin Islands, and Guam. Hooters also operates restaurants in 24 other countries. The company's first overseas location was in Singapore, and there are Hooters restaurants in Aruba, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Germany, Guatemala, Hungary, Japan, Mexico, Panama, Philippines, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Russia, and two in the United Kingdom, following the closure of the remaining UK franchises. The three largest Hooters restaurants are in Singapore, Tokyo, and São Paulo. In 2015 Hooters announced that it is planning to open more than 30 restaurants in Southeast Asia over the next six years.
Hooters, Inc. was incorporated in Clearwater, Florida, on April 1, 1983, by six Clearwater businessmen: Lynn D. Stewart, Gil DiGiannantonio, Ed Droste, Billy Ranieri, Ken Wimmer and Dennis Johnson. The date was an April Fools' Day joke because the original six owners believed that their prospect was going to fail. Their first Hooters Restaurant was built on the site of a former rundown nightclub that had been purchased at a low price. So many businesses had folded in that particular location that the Hooters founders built a small "graveyard" at the front door for each that had come and gone before them. The first restaurant opened its doors on October 4, 1983, in Clearwater.
In 1984 Hugh Connerty bought the rights to Hooters from the Original Hooters 6. Robert H. Brooks and a group of Atlantan investors (operators of Hooters of America, Inc.) bought out Hugh Connerty. In 2002, Brooks bought majority control and became chairman. The Clearwater-based company retained control over restaurants in the Tampa Bay Area, Chicago metropolitan area, and one in Manhattan, New York, while all other locations were under the aegis of Hooters of America, which sold franchising rights to the rest of the United States and international locations. Under Brooks's leadership, the collective Hooters brand expanded to more than 425 stores worldwide. Brooks died on July 15, 2006, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, of a heart attack. Brooks's will gave most of Hooters of America Inc. to his son Coby Brooks and daughter Boni Belle Brooks.
The Hooters Casino Hotel was opened February 2, 2006, off the Las Vegas Strip in Paradise, Nevada. This hotel has 696 rooms with a 35,000-square-foot (3,300 m2) casino. The hotel is owned and operated by 155 East Tropicana, LLC. It is adjacent to the Tropicana, across the street from the MGM Grand Las Vegas. As of 2014, it is the only Hooters facility offering lodging since a Hooters Inn motel located along Interstate 4 in Lakeland, Florida was demolished in 2007.
As part of their 25th anniversary, Hooters Magazine released its list of top Hooters Girls of all time. Among the best-known were Lynne Austin (the original Hooters Girl), the late Kelly Jo Dowd (the mother of the golfer Dakoda Dowd), Bonnie-Jill Laflin, Leeann Tweeden, and Holly Madison.
After Brooks' death, 240 buyers showed interest in Hooters of America Inc., and 17 submitted bids, with that number being reduced to eight, and then three, before the selection of Wellspring Capital Management. Chanticleer Holdings LLC, which had the right to block the sale after a $5 million loan made in 2006, did so in a December 1, 2010, letter to the court. As a result, Chanticleer and other investors bought the company.
As of July 2013 Hooters of America owns 160 restaurants and operates or franchises over 430.
In 2013, the company announced a plan to remodel every restaurant in the chain. The prototype restaurant first remodeled was the location in Houston, Texas located off the Southwest Freeway at Kirby Drive near Downtown Houston. The new design (done by ASD|skydesign) will feature more windows and outdoor dining and upgraded audio-visual systems to better appeal to sports enthusiasts. The first completely redesigned Hooters is scheduled to open in New Orleans in July 2013.
The company also announced changes to its menu, such as the addition of entrée salads.
The appearance of the waitresses is a main selling feature of the restaurant. A Hooters Girl is a waitress employed by the Hooters restaurant chain. The girls are recognizable by their uniform of a white tank top with the "Hootie the Owl" logo and the location name on the front paired with short nylon orange runner's shorts. The remainder of the Hooters Girls uniform consists of the restaurant's brown ticket pouch (or a black one with the black uniform), tan pantyhose, white loose socks, and clean white shoes. Men who work at Hooters wear Hooters hats, T-shirts with long pants, Bermuda shorts, or attire more suitable for kitchen use.
- In 1997, three men from the Chicago area sued Hooters after being denied employment at an Orland Park, Illinois, restaurant. Each of them was awarded $19,100. Four men who filed a similar lawsuit in Maryland received $10,350 each. The settlement allows Hooters to continue attracting customers with its female staff of Hooters Girls. The chain agreed to create other support jobs, like bartenders and hosts, that must be filled without regard to sex.
- In 2001, a jury determined Hooters of Augusta Inc. willfully violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by sending unsolicited advertising faxes. The class-action lawsuit, brought in June 1995 by Sam Nicholson, included 1,320 others who said they received the advertising faxes from Hooters. Atlanta-based Hooters of America Inc., the local restaurant's parent company, paid out $11 million. The jury determined that six faxes were sent to each plaintiff. With a $500 fine for each, that amounts to a $3,000 award per plaintiff.
- In 2004, it was found job applicants to a Hooters in West Covina, California were secretly filmed while undressing, prompting a civil suit filed against the national restaurant chain in Los Angeles Superior Court. The company addressed the incident with additional employee training.
- In 2009, Nikolai Grushevski, a man from Corpus Christi, Texas, filed a lawsuit because Hooters would not hire him as a waiter. Grushevski and Hooters reached a confidential settlement on April 13.
- In September 2009, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit against a North Carolina charter airline (formerly Hooters Air, owned by Hooters of America) on behalf of Chau Nguyen, an Asian flight attendant fired three years prior after complaining only white workers were being promoted.
- In May 2010, a lawsuit was filed against Hooters in Michigan after an employee was given a job performance review and was told that her shirt and short size could use some improvement by two women who held positions at the headquarters in Atlanta. Michigan is the only state that includes height and weight as bounds for non-discrimination in hiring. The plaintiff alleges that the women made the offer of a free gym membership and that if she did not improve in 30 days, her employment would be terminated. The company denied that they threatened to fire the plaintiffs, and the suit was settled out of court.
- In December 2010, as part of the settlement of Robert H. Brooks' estate, a judge in Horry County, South Carolina approved the sale of Hooters of America Inc. to Wellspring Capital Management. The decision did not prevent Charlotte, North Carolina–based Chanticleer Investors LLC from exercising "the right of first refusal" given to Chanticleer in a loan agreement with Hooters.
- In 2011, a number of former Hooters executives left to start a Twin Peaks franchise group. Hooters filed suit and alleged that former Hooters executives stole trade secrets and management documents as part as their move to the new restaurant chain.
- In 2012, former employee Jheri Stratton filed suit after catching the airborne disease, tuberculosis, from one of her managers.
- In 2012 Kisuk Cha, a Korean American immigrant who placed a takeout order at a Hooters in Queens, New York, sued the restaurant chain for racial discrimination after noticing a racial slur printed on a cash register receipt by a hostess who later confessed and subsequently resigned. As of April 2, 2015 (as a result of the Farryn Johnson racial discrimination lawsuit) the case has not been resolved.
- On April 2, 2015, former employee Farryn Johnson was awarded $250,000 after an arbitrator found that racial discrimination contributed to her termination. Johnson was terminated in August 2013 after her store manager (from the Hooters in Baltimore, Maryland) told her that she could not have blonde highlights in her hair. Johnson filed a civil rights complaint with the State of Maryland Civil Rights Division where her attorneys stated the applicability of the dress code for African Americans and everyone else (e.g. non-Hispanic Whites, Hispanic/Latino, Asian/Pacific Islander American) where one set of policies pertains to a certain group of people was considered as racial discrimination. A statement from Hooters of America by Ericka Whitaker (Hooters of America senior brand manager) stated that she had no issue of having blonde highlights as a Hooters Girl prior to becoming a brand manager and the company will continue to diversify its employees, from the restaurant to the annual Hooters International Swimsuit Pageant.
In employment discrimination law in the United States, employers are generally allowed to consider characteristics that would otherwise be discriminatory if they are bona fide occupational qualifications (BFOQ). For example, a manufacturer of men's clothing may lawfully advertise for male models. Hooters has argued a BFOQ defense, which applies when the “essence of the business operation would be undermined if the business eliminated its discriminatory policy”.
Employee handbook requirements
Customers can go to many places for wings and beer, but it is our Hooters Girls who make our concept unique. Hooters offers its customers the look of the "All American Cheerleader, Surfer, Girl Next Door."
Female employees are required to sign that they "acknowledge and affirm" the following:
- My job duties require I wear the designated Hooters Girl uniform.
- My job duties require that I interact with and entertain the customers.
- The Hooters concept is based on female sex appeal and the work environment is one in which joking and entertaining conversations are commonplace.
Hooters has actively supported charities through its Hooters Community Endowment Fund, also known as HOO.C.E.F., a play on UNICEF. It has provided money and/or volunteers to charities such as Habitat for Humanity, The V Foundation for Cancer Research, Operation Homefront, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Special Olympics, Muscular Dystrophy Association and Stop Hunger Now. In addition, after the 2007 death of Kelly Jo Dowd, a former Hooters Girl, Hooters calendar cover girl and later restaurant general manager, Hooters began a campaign in support of breast cancer research, with awareness of the issue being spread through the Kelly Jo Dowd Fund. By 2010 the chain raised over $2 million for the cause.
In 2009, Hooters partnered with Operation Homefront to establish The Valentine Fund in honor of fallen soldier SOCS Thomas J. Valentine. The fund supports the families of US Special Forces service members and other military families. Thomas J. Valentine, a Navy SEAL troop chief, was killed during a training exercise February 13, 2008. He left behind his wife, Christina, and two young children. Hooters established a fund in Valentine’s name through Operation Homefront.
Athletics and promotions
Hooters is involved in the sports world. Previous sponsorships include the Miami Hooters, a now defunct Arena Football League team. Hooters previously sponsored the USAR Hooters Pro Cup, an automobile racing series, and the NGA Pro Golf Tour, a minor league golf tour. In 1992 Hooters sponsored NASCAR driver Alan Kulwicki as he won the Winston Cup Championship, beating Bill Elliott by ten points, the closest margin in NASCAR prior to The Chase era. On April 1, 1993 Kulwicki, along with several others including Hooters Chairman Bob Brooks' son Mark were killed in a plane crash near Bristol, Tennessee. They were flying back to the track for Sunday's race after making a sponsor appearance at a Hooters in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Hooters has also licensed its name for the Hooters Road Trip PlayStation racing game as well as a Hooters Calendar mobile wallpaper application. Oasys Mobile will also be putting out several other games for mobile consumption based on the Hooters Calendar license in 2008. It was also one of several real world brands that appeared in the 2011 video game Homefront.
Professional golfer John Daly was sponsored by Hooters when he was on the PGA Tour, a deal potentially in jeopardy given his recent issues with alcohol. He also serves as a corporate spokesman. Dick Vitale, a college basketball analyst, is also a spokesman for Hooters.
Since 1986, the restaurant has issued a calendar of their girls, with signings taking place in some of their restaurants. Since 1996, Hooters has held Miss Hooters International Swimsuit Pageant, a competition of Hooters Girls from around the world; in 2010, this event took place in Hollywood, Florida. An African-American woman won the Miss Hooters pageant for the first time in 2010: LeAngela Davis of Columbus, Ohio. Since the 2013 pageant season, the International Finals have been held in Las Vegas. The pageant, prior to the 2015 season, usually would be hosted at a Hooters location (known as the in-store pageant) where the winner advances to the citywide and state finals (in a metropolitan area where Hooter has a presence). Commencing with the 2016 season, the in-store pageant has been phased out leaving the citywide and state finals - although the individual Hooters locations does not hire a photo or video crew, the photo and video crew (including the master of ceremonies) are usually the equivalent of independent contractors who are usually acquainted with Hooters management. Since 2014, the director of the Hooters International Swimsuit Pageant has imposed stricter guidelines for those covering the pageant - one Houston, TX photographer subsequently resigned their commission because of the rule change.
- Hooters Air (ceased operations April 2006)
- Hooters Casino Hotel
- Hooters Road Trip – PlayStation racing game based on the franchise
- Miami Hooters (a defunct Arena Football team)
- NGA Pro Golf Tour – a golf tour formerly known as the NGA Hooters Tour
- USAR Hooters Pro Cup – racing series
- Betel nut beauty
- Café con piernas
- Bikini barista