Plate of buffalo chicken wings from Hooters.

Wings, sports, and now, betting. Is it a recipe to drive customer visits?

Hooters Ups the Ante with Sports-Betting Platform

Customers in three states now have access to real-time odds while watching live sports.

The proverbial floodgates opened in May 2018 when the U.S. Supreme Court removed a law restricting sports betting.

Naturally, major players (The NFL wants to hire a VP of sports betting) have been looking to cash in ever since. In the restaurant industry, the first major domino to fall was Buffalo Wild Wings in September 2019. The chain announced a partnership with MGM Resorts International and its sports-betting venture, Roar Digital. Buffalo Wild Wings receives the betting information through MGM’s digital gaming platform, BetMGM.

Four months later, Hooters joined the club with the activation of KonekTV in Indiana, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. Hooters has a little more than a dozen units across those three states.

The KonekTV screens display real-time game statistics, analytics, and odds from BetRivers Sportsbook and promotions from Hooters. Other major KonekTV partners include Caesars Entertainment and Downtown Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. The new platform promises higher checks and engaged audiences.

“We’re looking to enhance the consumer experience in our restaurants,” says Bruce Skala, interim chief marketing officer for Hooters. “So when you sit down, you can enjoy the food with Hooters, enjoy the experience, and then this partnership really provides our goal to provide entertainment to the sports fans and the Hooters experience.”

To say there’s an appetite for widespread sports betting in the U.S. would be an understatement. Indiana saw $436 million in wagers from legalization in September through the end of the year. Pennsylvania saw $1.49 billion in wagers in 2019, while New Jersey dwarfs both as it saw more than $4.58 billion in wagers last year.

Skala says Hooters considered adding sports betting almost immediately after the Supreme Court ruling. He compares it to the growth in third-party delivery—Hooters saw it coming and knew it needed to get ahead of it.

He adds that the brand wanted to join with some of the best-in-class partners and do more than just have a press release.”


The sports betting activation comes amid new energy for the brand as it introduced a new prototype store design.

“We wanted to activate it in our stores,” Skala says. “And that’s probably the biggest point of differentiation right now with some of our competitors is, you can actually go to our stores and place bets. We’re not pushing people to sportsbooks and casinos. We’re actually activating our properties, and we’re the host for these betting activities for the casual sports fan, for the serious sports bettor, whoever you are, we want you to come out and hang out and have a great time at Hooters and place your bets.”

Skala says Hooters selected KonekTV because it provides guests with a simplified betting experience so novice bettors can easily get involved on the BetRivers app. Once you set up an account, BetRivers will match a user’s deposit up to $300—a deal exclusive to Hooters customers.

As more become aware that sports betting is legal in their state, (Skala uses the example of Indiana) Hooters has tried to drive awareness into its stores via billboard advertisements close to locations.

“From a customer’s point of view, it’s a fun environment,” Skala says. “Our staff members are going to be engaging with you and talking with you and understanding what bets you’re placing and rooting right alongside of you. And if you win a bet, we’re going to make a big deal out of it. It’s going to be a consumer-facing experience. We want the Hooters girls to be engaged with our customers and enjoy the entire experience with them and that’s another point of differentiation of just going in and placing a bet and walking out of there a winner. You’re going to feel like a winner at Hooters. That’s great for the customer. From our standpoint, we’re driving dine-in traffic. We want people to come into Hooters and spend some time and spend longer than you normally would because you’re invested in what’s going on the TVs and the games and the wagers that you’ve placed.”

National brands like Buffalo Wild Wings and Hooters diving head first into sports betting begs the question of which chains will be next.

Skala says it depends on the model of a chain and whether it’s already known for carrying games. He describes that as Hooters’ bread and butter, which is why sports betting was a logical next step in the brand’s evolution.

“What Hooters has done is you can watch every game, UFC fights, pay-per-view boxing, whatever it may be, the game is always on at Hooters and we’re leaning into everything that you can bet on, especially with our partnership with NASCAR,” Skala says.

The sports betting activation comes amid new energy for the brand as it introduced a new prototype store design in Alabama in September. Skala says the prototype has TV walls that make customers feel like they’re part of a large event.

The chief marketing officer says with the TVs loud, it creates a party atmosphere, and having the ability to bet “takes the experience of being in a sportsbook down to your local Hooters.”

Hooters was purchased by Nord Bay Capital and TriArtisan Capital Advisors in July 2019. Since then, the brand has introduced a line of premium spirts, added chicken chips to its menu, and continued its acceleration of restaurant openings (the first Bahamas unit opened in January).

“I think the Hooters brand is as alive and better than ever,” Skala says. “We’re leaning into our wing leadership. We want to be known as the place where if you love wings, Hooters is the place to go to. We’re not selling brisket, we’re not selling a lot of different items. We’re really leaning into the fact that we have more wing combinations and more styles and more sauces than anyone else. And if you want it at home, got you covered. If you want it in a fun, engaging environment with lots of options, we got you covered. That’s really a true focus for us moving forward.”