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Posted at 07:07 AM ET, 09/13/2012

Hooters gets a face-lift to woo women, but needs a personality transplant

Great news, ladies!  There's a new place (well, an old place getting a new look) that wants your business and is going to do almost whatever it takes to get you through the doors.  The newish kid on the block?  Hooters.

Yes, like a lot of restaurants, the Great Recession has been unkind to the ta-ta-themed sports bar, where sales started to sag in 2008 and have dropped every year since. So Hooters execs have decided that the fastest way to lift business beyond its mostly male clientele is to reach out to the other half of the population, namely women, and get more customers in the seats.   

The revamped restaurants will have fresher, lighter fare, like mixed greens and never-frozen chicken wings, and a brighter look, too. Instead of dark wood panelling and basement-like lighting, restaurants will be renovated with big windows to let a little light into the joints and to send the message that there's absolutely nothing to be ashamed of if you're a nice girl looking for a grilled shrimp salad on your lunch hour.

 But for all the things that are going to change at the chains, Terry Marks, the newly installed CEO, says the one thing that that isn't going anywhere is Hooters' focus on, well, hooters.

“There’s an opportunity to broaden the net without putting wool sweaters on the Hooters girls,” Marks told Bloomberg News. “Everything we do should appeal more to women, but nothing we will do will turn men off.”

Phew-- no wool sweaters.  That should come as a relief to everyone except Hooters girls, who say that while the tips are great, the uniforms stink.  With the putty-colored panty hose and Flashdance-era tangerine hot pants, one Hooters girl told LemonDrop, "Each time I wrestle myself into this outrageous ensemble, I struggle to comprehend how anyone can find such an absurd outfit sexy."

Bloomberg notes that the restaurant's growth strategy is coming as the "breastaurant" industry has exploded, with the addition of new bust-themed bars like Twin Peaks ("Eats, Drinks, and Scenic Views," get it?) and the Tilted Kilt ( a "Celtic-themed sports pub staffed with beautiful servers in sexy plaid kilts and matching plaid bras.")

With competition like that, it's easy to see why Hooters thinks it needs to do something big.  But if they're really looking for women's business, here's a secret their marketing gurus have probably never told them, and it has nothing to do with the availability of mixed greens: The fastest way for most woman to lose their appetites is to walk into a restaurant and be surrounded by other women's hooters and the middle aged men who want to look at them.

 To actually get women through the doors, Hooters would probably have to do things they don't want to do, like change their name to something that's not blatantly offensive. Maybe something women could better identify with, like "My Eyes Are Up Here."

But since the wool sweater/basic respect approach seems to be off the table, Hooters should probably double down on the direction they're already heading and consider a spinoff to give Twin Peaks a run for its money, like "Tetons" (look it up) or "Knockers."

And hold the shrimp salad.  We can get one of those-- without the scenic views-- just about anywhere.


Patricia Murphy is the Atlanta-based founder of Citizen Jane Politics, a Daily Beast contributor and former Congressional correspondent for Politics Daily.

By  |  07:07 AM ET, 09/13/2012

Tags:  Hooters, women, Terry Marks, Twin Peaks, Tilted Kilt, salads

 
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