Your opinion of Hooter’s restaurants is directy related to the following factors: gender, sports fandom, region of the country and taste in food. As a social scientist, I can actually explain how you feel about Hooters in a simple mathematical formula if you have any doubts about your true feelings.
Sports Fandom / (Region of the Country – Gender * Taste in Food) = Whether you like Hooters
If you’re a sports fan, you’re going to want to eat at a sports bar to watch games with other people. However, the availability of decent sports bars has a lot to do with where in America you live. If you’re in Pittsburgh, where there is a huge following for football and hockey but not much else you may not be as many good sports bars as say New York where soccer, football, baseball, hockey and basketall are popular year round. You subtract from that your gender, which means how much you want to see, or perhaps even tolerate busty ditzy jiggling women in pantyhose and orange volleyball shorts and finally multiply your final result by your taste in food. Because if you want good bar food, Hooters is above average but not great. The point of this math is that Hooters is launching a new campaign to re-brand and re-introduce their restaurants to the dining public, and the company’s ultimate success, or failure has a lot to do with the math above.
Hooters Restaurants has launched two new ads, one showing how Hooters is a better alternative to drab conveyor-belt made burritos at Chipotle:
And the second depicts Hooters as an upscale getaway for sports fans who don’t want to be surrounded by beer swilling loud yahoos:
Personally I find both ads funny in a sad way. First, since when did burritos become lame and boring? I mean I’ll admit that salsa and guacamole aren’t as exotic as they were 20 years ago, but when Chipotle becomes mainstream, America really has turned a crucial demographic corner. The second ad was even sadder, while some writers point out that this commerical insults “Fat” people (I’m sorry Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon you totally missed the point) the commercial isn’t nearly that sophisticated. Hooters Restaurants are running essentially the same ad campain as Buffalo Wild Wings from last fall. BWW spent the better part of the football season bombarding the public with ads showing that a clean, well lit sports bar with decent food is better than trying to watch the game drinking skunky home brewed beer at yourZach Galifianakis-Look-Alike friend’s house, or watching the game at the house of your friends with a billion screaming toddlers. In other words, “Hey Everybody the recession is over! Please come out and spend again.”
Sports bars like most other restaurants in America are still strugging to lure in customers who took a haitus from discretionary spending at bars and the like during the works parts of the unemployment crisis. Hooters, which has fared reasonably well during the recession has nonetheless tried to go one step further and convince the public that they are a respectable place to eat and enjoy sports instead of a sexist, misogynistic bar catering to male sex fantasies masquerading as a good ole time with the boys (and the Hot girls who of COURSE have no problem with Hooters since they’re not intimidated by those skinny chicks!). It won’t work of course. In most cities there are just too many options for big screens and better food for anyone to bother changing from their favorite bar to Hooters. There are still a majority of women, not to mention quite a few men, that don’t find the wings there (described in the menu as Naked or Breaded. HaHa! Get it? NAKED ???!!) tasty enough to put up with the sexism and annoying early 90s neon color scheme. Of course there are also folks like myself, who will primarily go to Hooters if it happens to have the game on that I want, and I find the flirty waitresses to be distracting more than cute or sexy.
The point is, rebranding is a good idea, if the brand is actually going to change in some significant way but that is not what is happening here. Hooters will always have a niche market for some sports fans and occasionally wing enthusiasts. But the chances that they’re going to branch out and captue the same customers as Applebees or even Buffalo Wild Wings are fatter than the rowdy sports fans in their new ads.