In a world where just about every restaurant is on the hunt for ways to market themselves as family-friendly establishments, one type of restaurant chain is flying in the face of convention: the “breastaurant.” In recent years, this decidedly child-inappropriate format has exploded in popularity, but Hooters is the one that started it all.
Hooters was founded by six Clearwater, Florida, businessmen with no previous restaurant experience in April 1983. The first location opened later the same year on the site of an old rundown Clearwater nightclub. The next few years saw a couple changes in ownership, and today the chain is actually two privately held companies: Hooters, Inc., which owns the restaurants in Tampa Bay, Chicago, and Manhattan; and Hooters of America, which owns or franchises all other locations. Altogether, this amounts to about 460 locations total, in 25 countries.
It didn’t take very long for Hooters to work its way into American pop culture after beginning its expansion, largely thanks to its double-entendre name, suggestive logo, and scantily-clad waitresses, who sport short orange shorts and low-cut white T-shirts. Today, it’s a household name and a PG-13 alternative to other chains (the brand has even been extended to a Hooters Casino Hotel in Las Vegas), but it’s facing some serious competition and beginning to show its age.
The combination of wings, beer, sports, and cleavage is a winning one; the “breastaurant” category is currently a $2 billion industry. Over the past year, sales at similar chains like Bikinis, Tilted Kilt, Twin Peaks, and Brick House have all increased substantially, with some growing at a double-digit pace, according to food market research firm Technomic. Hooters, however, has experienced a slight decline in sales over the past few years — necessitating the closure of about 50 locations — and those numbers have only just begun to improve. The chain is in the process of renovating all Hooters locations worldwide (adding outdoor dining areas and more windows), the menus now feature salads and other healthier foods, and fresh burgers and wings have replaced the frozen versions served up until now.
While Hooters may be going through a rough patch, the company is working hard to turn it around. And while we may think that those orange short shorts are relics of the ‘80s, restaurants where waitresses are scantily clad are more popular than ever. They may be controversial, but they’re certainly not going anywhere. Read on for 10 things you didn’t know about the original “breastaurant.”
The Name Was Inspired by a Steve Martin Monologue on ‘Saturday Night Live’
The Owners Were Convinced That the Company Would Fail