Hooters' Real Estate Tool Fuels Expansion Strategy


Hooters' growth plan in 2015 includes 30 remodels, at least five new corporate restaurants, and upwards of 24 franchise openings internationally.

This comes on top of 10 new international units in 2014 and 55 domestic remodels during the last 18 months.

With so much expansion and remodeling activity brewing at Hooters, the 415-unit brand announced a partnership last month with Forum Analytics, a data and intelligence provider that will help to customize the brand's real-estate planning.

Forum Analytics will collaborate with Hooters to design and implement a solution using SIMMS Online, Forum Analytics' proprietary mapping, reporting, and analytic platform, which Paul Sill, principal and founder of Forum Analytics, compares to Google Maps.

The real-time solution will help Hooters determine future franchise territories, assess corporate and franchise real estate, and aid in remodeling and relocation decisions.

Hooters sought a real estate tool to be more productive in its real estate hunt and narrow the focus for new sites to locations with the most potential, says Mark Whittle, Hooters' senior vice president of global development.

"Instead of spending our time looking all over the country, we can focus in on the highest potential area for sales," Whittle explains. "That helps us prioritize on a market-by-market standpoint. If we see through optimization that there are three or four strong trade areas in one market, and only one in another market, we know to focus on the market with higher potential for not only sales, but units, as well."

When considering new sites, Whittle says Hooters takes into account a myriad of elements including population density, good ingress and egress for customers, and proximity to big-box retailers and late-night activities games that will create business.

"We're looking for other generators to be around at that 10 o'clock hour, whether it be bowling alleys, movie theaters, sports venues, other bars or restaurants that are open, or hotels that will generate a lot of traffic," he says.

Sill at Forum Analytics says the tool provides confidence in choosing real estate because restaurants executives are relying on something beyond their gut or instinct. Whittle agrees, adding that the tool provides credibility in particular on the franchise side.

"So it's not just me saying, 'Yup, that looks like a good site,'" Whittle says. "Our system is also validating that; I think that gives [franchisees] an added comfort.

"It's a sizable investment that we make when we build a store, and we want to make sure we're using every tool available," he adds.

By Sonya Chudgar

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