When Hooters opened in Thailand, I predicted they would fail. In my not-so-humble opinion, creating a restaurant staffed by beautiful girls with cold beer and sports broadcast on every wall was not such a novel idea in Thailand. “Like bringing sand to the beach” I said. And even though the franchise seems to have taken root fairly well here in the Land of Smiles, I’m still a grumbling old naysayer.
I hear you thinking, “Orlando, what do you have against Hooters?”
Put simply, Hooter’s represents a nostalgic period in my youth. I would prefer to freeze it back in that kinder, gentler and simpler time. Why yes, I will explain.
Many people have no idea about the history of the Hooter’s franchise. Back in 1983 six guys from Clearwater, Florida that had no former restaurant or bar experience, took up a business residence in a cursed old nightclub building that had housed six failed enterprises. They launched their harebrained Hooter’s scheme on 1 April, 1983 so that if it failed they could claim it was all an April Fool’s joke. Now Hooter’s has 430 locations in 44 US states and 29 countries. The largest Hooter’s are in Singapore, Tokyo and Sao Paulo. They even have a casino and hotel in Las Vegas.
Still I hear you thinking, “Orlando, so why are you hating on Hooter’s?”
The original business model for Hooter’s was to serve hearty he-man bar food like hot chicken wings, juicy hamburgers and big piles of curly fries. Sports would be broadcast from the biggest televisions available throughout the restaurant and ice cold pitchers of beer would be served by scantily clad young women.
Since Hooter’s started in my home state of Florida, there was an endless supply of Trailer-Trash-Tammys to squeeze into the bright orange jogging shorts and supply the “ambience” that made the place so special. I remember when the first Hooter’s opened in my hometown it was an event. There was TV coverage, a Hooter’s sponsored race car in the parking lot and I actually got to meet Lynne Austin, the original Hooter’s Calendar Girl. The wings were scorching hot, the beer was $5 a pitcher and everybody had at least one Hooter’s girlfriend story over the next ten years. Ahhhh, those were heady times.
Fast forward to Pattaya Beach, Thailand. The burgers are $15, the beer is mostly import and there isn’t a bleach-blonde-bimbo in sight. Most of the patrons I’ve met have never been to a “real” Hooter’s. It’s supposed to be tacky. It’s supposed to be cheap. It’s supposed to be intimate. It’s supposed to be fun.
All brands worth their weight morph into international franchises I suppose. KFC used to be a family restaurant; the same is true of McDonald’s and Dairy Queen.
Last month I spotted the familiar orange and white logo of Hooter’s at a softball tournament in East Pattaya. While I was getting a shot of the Hooter’s corporate Tuk Tuk, I was flagged down by two modern day International Hooter’s girls for an impromptu photo shoot. After an hour of giggling flirty fun with these two I had to reassess my position. In the end I concluded, “No, Hooter’s ain’t what it used to be, maybe it’s time for me to let go of the past”.
I’m confident I can make the adjustment.