A number of Hooters locations around the country have closed in the past year—no doubt the pandemic presented a challenge for the chain whose biggest customer draw for years was its, ehm, atmosphere. In response to customers who miss the Hooters experience because of its food (and critics who felt its values were a little outdated), the 38-year-old company has finally introduced a new restaurant concept that may appeal to customers whose favorite thing about Hooters really is the chicken wings.
Tank tops that runneth over and neon orange short-shorts might have been in style when the first Florida Hooters was established in 1983—but how times have changed. In 2008 Hooters had 400 locations that made nearly a billion dollars in revenue each year—but by 2016, they’d shut down about 15% of those, according to a 2018 report from Mashed. Now, the past year has caused Hooters some hurt, with pandemic restrictions influencing more Hooters closures while the chain has tried to convince customers that it’s safe to return to Hooters dining.
Hoots Wings plans to differentiate itself from rivals through its new franchising program. Its virtual wings competitors are run through existing kitchens at national concepts like Applebee’s and Chili’s, which limits the growth of those brands to existing physical footprints. This also appears to be the first time a full-service chain has franchised its fast casual brand.
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