Hooters, the OG “breastaurant” chain that famously serves up objectified women along with baskets of chicken wings, has a brilliant idea to outwit its competitors in the still-growing breastaurant space: Go fast-casual, and take away the booty shorts. According to the Tampa Bay Times, Hooters will soon launch a fast-casual concept called Hoots, A Hooters Joint (yep), serving a “greatest hits” version of the Hooters menu. Most strikingly, however, will be the planned change in service style: It’ll be counter service and feature both male and female workers wearing presumably normal clothes (or at least, something other than the iconic “revealing outfits,” according to chain spokeswoman Lizz Harmon). The first iteration of Hoots will debut in a Chicago suburb this February, and plans to serve alcohol along with wings.
According to a 2014 Bloomberg article, Hooters logged $828 million in sales the previous year, noting however that (pun!) “sales at the chain were virtually flat” as consumer attention focused toward more thematically niche breastaurant chains like Tilted Kilt and Twin Peaks. (In 2012, Hooters had announced a plan to revamp its sexed-up image — including scrapping its longstanding tagline, "delightfully tacky yet unrefined" — in order to appeal to women diners and millennials. Its competitors seemingly went the opposite route.)
The fast-casual restaurant market, meanwhile, continues to grow as both established chains and fine-dining chefs are throwing their respective hats in the ring. In recent months, sit-down chains ranging from Cracker Barrel to Johnny Rockets have debuted fast-casual versions; meanwhile, fast-food giant Taco Bell’s attempt to go slightly upmarket, in the form of U.S. Taco Co., went belly-up in 2015.
But fast-casual concepts focusing on chicken in particular still have room to grow in 2017, especially as the chicken sandwich market has seemingly stagnated. Will fast-casual customers flock to a Hooters offshoot literally, actually just because they like the wings? Time will tell.