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Mark Whittle, Chief Development Officer, Hooters.

Hooters of America, LLC: Delivering a Distinctive Food, Fun and Family Experience

When you think of a place where you can find lip-smacking food and an ecstatic ambiance, a place for spending some good family time, or a place where you and your friends can chill on a night out, what name comes to your mind? For us at Insights Success, the answer is Hooters.
For any business to thrive, an implied focus on the customers is evidently essential. Hooters Restaurants have been America’s favorite wing joint through the best and worst of times. It exhibits an implicit comprehension of this aforementioned need through its top-of-the-line customer service across all its franchises around the globe. We say this with substantial certainty that this franchise brand we’re talking about, needs no detailed introduction. However, featuring the story, experience and the details that go into making a global brand has been the motive of our endeavor seeking The 10 Best Franchises to Open in 2020, and Hooters perfectly fits the description.
Since the foundations of the first Hooters was laid in 1983 in Clearwater, Florida, millions have been liberated from the ordinary at Hooters, while enjoying great food, fun, and one-of-a-kind hospitality that can only be served up by the Hooters Girls.
While everyone knows about Hooters’ world-famous wings, juicy burgers and fresh seafood, the real secret to its success is the exceptional hospitality, customer service, and a system-wide commitment to making its customers happy.
The brand continues its global expansion, with over 125 new locations opened in the past five years. With over 70 commitments for future franchise development worldwide, Hooters has plans to open and continue its growth in multiple markets across the United States and around the globe in various international markets. In addition to new restaurant growth, Hooters’ remodeling program continues on with an average of 25 restaurants being remodeled per year, and to date almost 65% of all Hooters restaurants are reflective of the newest prototype design.
Hooters’ restaurant design appeals to a broad range of customers with more contemporary seating and interior finishes, and top-of-the-line Audio and Visual packages. It also includes a centrally located bar area, offering a wide selection of cocktails, craft beers and wines. “It’s a fun, lively atmosphere where customers get a great meal and enjoy a beer while watching their favorite sporting event,” says Mark Whittle, the Chief Development Officer at Hooters.
When it comes to food, Hooters is known for its diverse and mouthwatering menu, including fresh entree salads, a great lineup of hand-formed burgers, delicious seafood dishes, and fan-favorite fried pickles. How can one miss out the world-famous traditional and boneless chicken wings with over 18 sauces and rubs, ranging in heat from mild to 911, as well as additional signature sauces and rubs, such as teriyaki-style samurai, lemon pepper and chipotle honey? Over the past 4 years, Hooters has raised the bar for wing variety by adding bacon wrapped, smoked, and roasted wings for its guests to enjoy.
The senior leadership team at Hooters is committed to delivering the company’s vision of Hooters Makes You Happy to all its guests. Mark states that this commitment includes continual enhancements to the menu and products which Hooters serves, as well as enhanced training with its franchisees and corporate store employees who deliver that guest experience tens of thousands of times per day.
“The leadership team is committed to the ongoing success of the existing restaurant base, as well as growing the business with attracting new qualified franchisees to build new Hooters restaurants,” Mark expresses.
The Benchmark of Quality 
Hooters franchisees understand that while it is a great restaurant, appealing to a broad spectrum of customers, the brand is first and foremost, a people business. Franchisees that run their day to day business with that in mind will always have the most success in their Hooters business.
While the Hooters menu is remarkably diverse, with delicious items that appeal to all genders and ages, it is a fairly simple menu to execute. Franchisees for Hooters love the brand as guests can choose Hooters for their restaurant of choice for a number of varied occasions, including a quick lunch, dinner with family and friends, night out for drinks from its full bar offerings, or to come and watch some great sports events with its outstanding AV packages in the restaurants. And like most restaurants, if guests just want to chill out at home for the night or have lunch at the office, they can get Hooters’ great food delivered through numerous DSP providers.
There are numerous opportunities for development with new partners in United States, in addition to numerous markets across the globe. With 100% brand awareness in the US, and over 93% around the world, the Hooters brand is not one that needs a lot of introduction to the local consumers.
One of the great things about selling this concept is that you never have to overcome a brand-awareness hurdle. Whether here in the US or abroad, everyone knows Hooters and most people have a genuine fondness for the brand.
The ideal franchisee is someone who has operated multiple restaurants in a given market, or someone who’s entering the project with access to an experienced partner. Also key, in addition to financial wherewithal, is a desire to develop multiple restaurants. The three common elements with Hooters’ largest franchisee partners in the United States are a passion for its great brand, solid operational execution, and the financial capability to grow the brand in each of their markets.
“Hooters looks for potential franchisees with $1.5 million in available cash on hand, and a $3 million net worth, but these levels can vary depending upon the market,” asserts Mark. In terms of markets, Hooters is predominantly looking at places with populations of at least 100,000 or 125,000 with a middle to upper-middle income base, a high preponderance of daytime activity and a strong residential base surrounding the site.
In addition, Hooters prefers sites that are within close proximity to regional malls, theaters and/or sports arenas to help drive evening and late night traffic. Hooters is always looking for new locations in corporate and franchise markets.
Bequeathing the keys to Excellence 
We asked Mark on what he would advise the up-and-coming entrepreneurs and franchise enthusiasts, he said, “First and foremost have a passion for what you do. Validate the product or your business to make sure that it has good demand in the market before going into heavy growth phase. Grow strategically and with purpose, concentric growth of new outlets from your base to achieve better span of control, marketing, and supply chain efficiencies. If you franchise, ensure the franchisees you select have the same passion for the concept/brand as you do, they will be your brand ambassadors as they open their outlets.”
Foreseeing a Successful Tomorrow
Talking about the challenges that became lessons, Mark says “While lessons are continually learned, the one that is most top of mind was the work done around the new restaurant design a few years ago. Much research was done and the concept design was revolutionary – changed to attract a broader demographic, including many more females and families, as well as significantly enhance the sports viewing occasion with huge investments made in the AV package and sports programming for the new restaurants.”
In light of this development, Hooters will continue to build a healthy amount of new restaurants each year, will open up some new countries for Hooters development, and will always deliver the incredible hospitality experience from the Hooters Girls. The brand will also be on the cutting edge of product innovation and looks forward to offering its guests some new items to try and experience over the coming years.