Hooters of America has today unveiled its new prototype, on Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta.
At just over 8,000 square feet with seating for 340 customers, the store is double the size of the original, which opened exactly 10 years ago.
It features more than 50 high-definition flat screen TVs showing premium sports, a larger bar, 32 tap handles, an indoor/outdoor bar, a more closed kitchen, more comfortable and padded booths, and cushioned stools with backs.
The renovated store is part of Hooters’ plan to re-energize this 30-year-old brand, but it’s not exactly a prototype, says CEO Terry Marks.
“Lots is different in the new prototype but it’s not representative of our newest prototype,” he says. “It’s on the way towards the new prototype.”
There will be a brand new full prototype released in the near future, Marks says. “We are confident that many elements of the Peachtree store will be part of any new prototype,” he says.
“The main thing about the Peachtree location is it’s a bit of an evolution,” Marks explains. Not only is it larger, he says, but it brings the outside in, and melds into the downtown urban landscape.
It also has a very unusual feature—a fully functional radio broadcast booth that will double as a DJ booth later at night.
“There are always college events going on in Atlanta and the broadcast teams can set up shop in our stores so that will add energy and buzz in our location,” Marks points out.
“I borrowed this idea from our franchisee in Anaheim. It hit me right between the eyes. It’s perfect when you think about the core user of Hooters. It brings energy to the place and makes it a destination.”
It’s also a great marketing tool, he adds, since DJs will mention their broadcast location on air.
But the main focus of the new semi-prototype store is to help Hooters meet the demands of today’s customers, Marks says.
“The company needs to catch up to where the consumer has gone in the past 30 years,” he explains.
“Our atmosphere is one-of-a-kind but clearly people have moved on in terms of their palate and health and wellness. We’re never going to become a salad bar—it’s not who we are—but there’s a menu evolution, which will increase the occasions people will consider us for,” he says.
Hooters is looking specifically at two components of the menu, he says:
- Improving overall ingredient quality.
- Adding items to the menu that are consistent with the concept and have the ability to broaden its appeal. One example is a spinach and shrimp salad.
“These are better-for you-items that are not out of line with our core concept,” Marks says. They should also help the chain do a better job of appealing to women, he adds.
And despite these moves, prices won’t increase.“We will increase the value proposition because it’s still tough out there for everyone.”
And while the company is looking to appeal to a broader customer base it doesn’t want to lose sight of its regular customers.
The brand will continue to offer “the opportunity for people to escape, get away from the ordinary in an environment that is non-judgmental and to some degree, politically incorrect,” Marks says.
“That, at its core, is what the brand delivers. As we seek to broaden the user base to which we appeal, it’s critical that we not lose sight of who we are and it’s critical that we not lose our heavy user.”
It’s particularly important to keep sight of Hooters’ core patrons, since there’s more competition now than 30 years ago when the chain began.
For decades Hooters had no direct competition, but now there are Twin Peaks and Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery, as well as smaller chains like Mugs ‘N Jugs, all part of a restaurant trend known as ‘breastaurants.’
These don’t worry Marks.
“The magic of Hooters is not just the attractive Hooters girls. It’s every ingredient in the overall sauce that makes Hooters special,” he says.
“It’s the feel of the place, the casual atmosphere, the food that tends to be finger food and casual food. You tend to be able to see across the entire restaurant—the backs of the booths are low enough—which gives the feel of a big party. Hooters girls are iconic but if it were just them, we’d have gone out of business years ago.”
By Amanda Baltazar