Executives are leaving Hooters en masse to join rival restaurant chain Twin Peaks.

Less than three months after Addison, Texas-based Twin Peaks named former Hooters CEO Rick Akam as its COO, an investment group led by former Hooters executives has signed a series of development agreements. These will lead to the opening of 35 Twin Peaks restaurants throughout six states over the next 10 years.

The investment group consists of Coby Brooks, who until last month had served since 2003 as president and CEO of Hooters. He will be the majority partner of the franchise group.

Joining him are:

  • Joe Hummel, former executive vice president of operations and purchasing for Hooters
  • Roger Gondek, former vice president of company store operations for Hooters
  • Clay Mingus, former vice president and general counsel for Hooters
  • Jim Tessmer, former vice president and controller for Hooters
  • Patti Frederick, who served 17 years as business administrator to Bob Brooks, owner of Hooters from 1984 until his death in 2006, and with the Brooks estate for the past five years.

Hummel, Gondek, Mingus and Tessmer all resigned from Hooters last month.

The franchise group will open restaurants in Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and Tennessee over the next 10 years. The first two restaurants are scheduled to open within 18 months; three more per year will open for the next  three years; with four more each year for the six years following.

“I just think everybody’s recognized the brand and what Randy (DeWitt, co-founder and CEO) has done,” says Coby Brooks.

“We’ve been watching for a while and we like [Twin Peaks’] passion for the brand and the food execution and the whole atmosphere. It is refreshing and we’re excited about doing something new and being a part of their family.”

The two franchise chains have their similarities and differences, Brooks points out.

“The menu is very different. Hooters is very chicken driven and Twin Peak’s menu is much more varied,” he says, adding that everything from the plate presentations to the  plateware to the food itself is more upscale.

Twin Peaks also does a great job with its beer, he explains, serving it at 29ºF—so cold that crystals appear on the top.

But the girls and the sex appeal are the same, as are the challenges of operating in a post-recession market.

Aaron Allen, a restaurant consultant of his eponymous company, has his concerns about the Hooters executive team moving to Twin Peaks.

There’s virtually no differentiation between the two chains, whereas a third “breastaurant” chain, Tilted Kilt, has at least carved out its own niche in the market, he points out.

“Hooters is not doing well and Twin Peaks has hardly any chance of doing any better. Does it make sense that you take the guy who ran Hooters’ energy into the ground will do better here? The CEO has to be the cheerleader and chief, and to affect the culture, the enthusiasm, of a brand.” And Brooks was clearly unable to do that with Hooters, he says.

Twin Peaks is also failing miserably on other accounts, he says.

“What made Hooters in their heyday was publicity. Even failures like the airline drove millions of impressions per year … [but Twin Peaks] “has just upscaled the concept and put in a more broad menu. Saying they’re just like Hooters and having a bunch of their executives is not different enough.”

However, Randy DeWitt is confident in the new executive team and the future of his chain, which plans to open six new restaurants this year.

“To have these proven industry pros recognize the potential of Twin Peaks and want to be a part of that growth speaks volumes about the foundation we have put in place,” he says. “There is no doubt that this will have a major impact on our expansion plans.”

Brooks, too, is optimistic. “There’s a level of passion that you see at Twin Peaks, because it’s a new concept and is in its infancy and it has nothing but potential to go forward. The passion is intensified because there’s so much possibility out there.”

By Amanda Baltazar

Industry News, Leader Insights, NextGen Casual, Hooter's, Twin Peaks