If there’s one restaurant chain that’s resorted to sex appeal in order to make money, it’s Hooters. The sports bar franchise boasts over 430 separate outlets around the world, in more than 28 other countries outside of the United States. There are Hooters restaurants in China, Brazil, The Philippines, Mexico, Germany and Switzerland, among others; and as time goes on, we can expect to see many more. In 2015, Hooters announced plans to open more than 30 restaurants in Southeast Asia over the next six years.
It’s fairly obvious why the franchise is so popular. As good as I’m sure the food is there, I think it’s less to do with the BBQ hot wings and pitchers of beer, and more to do with the scantily-clad staff that wait on customers day in, day out.
The Hooters uniform is arguably the whole reason that the brand is as fetishistic as it is iconic, and has attracted both appreciation and criticism over the years. Many believe that the whole concept of the franchise is inherently sexist and demeaning, but the outfit waitresses are contractually required to wear is firmly entrenched in the mind of the public. Anyone of a certain age can recognise it: the orange shorts, the white tank-top and the ugly socks and trainers.
Understandably, in more conservative cultures than the more sexually-liberated Western world, the Hooters uniform might be considered offensive, or even downright obscene – a tricky issue when you’re looking to expand your brand to far-away locations. It seems as though Hooters will now be forced to make an alteration to their uniform, making it a little bit more modest.
Nell Bailey, the president of Hooters Asia, has recently stated that new restaurants which have opened in Singapore will feature a more conservative dress code, in order to appeal more to families. Although sex appeal has often been viewed as an integral part of the Hooters paradigm, Bailey has stated that the chain is willing to compromise for foreign markets. That means thicker tights, shorter necklines and less skin on show overall.
“We are still Hooters but we recognise that if we want to be a part of the community, we have to adapt to be embraced,” Bailey stated, “So, as opposed to the attitude of ‘We are here and get used to it’, we say ‘We’d like to be here. Is this acceptable?’ We are still talking and engaging with the local community. In fact, when we opened the outlet, the senior community leaders came and we had dinner together.”
Bailey added, “Hooters of America was worried (that modifications would dilute the brand) but we didn’t have to take long to convince them. You can’t just come in with the mindset of ‘I’m here now so accept it’. It’s about adapting to your environment and knowing that you are the guest. When you recognise that, they will welcome you like any new neighbour.”
The new Singapore restaurants will also feature a Halal menu as well as local flavours such as sambal sauce, with kids’ meals also being added to the menu. Whether or not you agree with the concept behind the restaurant chain, it’s fair to say that the waitresses themselves are the best part about it, but not because of their looks. It’s their heart that makes them so appealing. Just take the case of the Hooters girl who did something incredible for an unfortunate homeless man.