Improved service, menu, marketing aimed at breaking through growing ‘breastaurant’ segment
Looking to differentiate the Hooters concept at a time when other “breastaurant” chains are expanding, the new leadership team at the Atlanta-based chain launched a brand refresh this week that seeks to upgrade its service, menu and marketing.
Called “Hooters 2.0,” the brand augmentation kicked off with a new ad campaign sporting a new tagline, “Feed the Dream,” and positioning Hooters as a place to celebrate any day or occasion.
Hooters will remodel between 20 and 25 restaurants per year of its more than 430 restaurants over the next few years, and any new builds will take the form of a more contemporary prototype, officials said.
“People want any reason to engage or re-engage with the brand,” said chief executive Terry Marks, who came aboard with his executive team in late 2011. “It’s highly thought of, and our unaided awareness is among the best. But the food had not kept pace over time. We had real opportunities with the food and the Hooters Girls’ hospitality.”
Service initiatives take flight
Hooters’ changes to its service and hospitality systems started at the corporate level, “where we went all the way back to sharpening our interviewing and hiring processes, as well as how we handle orientations with the Hooters Girls,” Marks said.
The chain will move toward a team service model, where servers think less about handling only their tables in designated sections, and more about pitching in everywhere on the floor where they could attend to a guest.
“It’s not very difficult to train, but change is change,” Marks said. “Now the idea is to take care of every table and every guest. The guest doesn’t understand why they’re not getting any attention when a server is right there and could help out.
“Once we started training this way, our guest satisfaction metrics started to jump,” he said. “It’s the perfect example of something that wasn’t a hard fix, but it was a philosophical fix.”
Chief operating officer Sam Rothschild said improving the service of Hooters Girls would defend the kind of unique guest experience Hooters can claim against competitors, even concepts who recruit similar servers, like Twin Peaks and The Tilted Kilt. The brand also had to upgrade its audio-visual packages to keep pace with consumers’ expectations of a sports game-day destination.
But Marks stressed that the news Hooters would be more than a sports bar.
“We’re more than a sports bar, but we should be able to compete head to head with anybody on the game-day occasion,” he said.
Continued from page 1
Menu gets a makeover
Rothschild said another key to getting repeat traffic would be menu innovation.
For its menu revamp, Hooters looked everywhere for opportunities to upgrade ingredients and found a crucial one in its salad lineup. The chain took its salad offerings from a base of head and romaine lettuce to a new spring mix, and developed 30 salads in total.
“We launched the new salad lineup to increase trips, and that applies both to our core user and a light user who we’d like to make a medium user,” Marks said. “Even that core user needs to mix it up for lunch and dinner and have something lighter once in a while. By broadening the menu and introducing items that are better for you, we can get both new people and lapsed guests who might have outgrown our core items.”
Hooters wants to continue to ownwings as a menu category, Marks added. The menu now has 20 new wing sauces, many of which were ideas that generated in Hooters’ international restaurants.
“Some of the food and hospitality programs that were tested earliest just got implemented, but we’re always testing more new items,” Rothschild said. “You continue to build on successes, and the longer-term branding things will be working constantly.”
Rothschild said another big food opportunity in Hooters 2.0 would be sharable items, which ideally would play well with the chain’s target Millennial demographic, “who are adventure seekers and like to share.”
“We’re looking hard at the appetizer category,” Rothschild said. “Wings are sharable as well. We’ll look at different platters and combos to round out the menu.”
New wise guys for spokesmen
Hooters Girls will give up the spotlight in new commercials to two puppet owls, one an angel owl and the other a devil owl, who sit on potential guests’ shoulders and act out their inner monologue arguing for and against a trip to Hooters.
Marks said the characters could make their humorous spots on a long, ongoing basis.
“Those characters could play a role in all sorts of aspects of the brand,” he said. “They could advertise anything from what to order, to the role of the Hooters Girls, to whether it’s OK to come into Hooters. It takes the tension the brand has had over the years and has some fun with it.”
Later in this year’s football season, commercials will star football commentator John Gruden, a Super Bowl winning head coach and former Hooters employee.
Hooters’ leaders hope to put a lot of marketing dollars behind the owl characters by requiring franchisees’ marketing fund contributions to skew toward more national broadcast buys than local-store marketing, Marks said.
“That will be a slow build over time,” he said. “We’re not asking our operators for more money, but we’re recalibrating the spending so that we have more firepower behind the new advertising campaign.”
The reconfigured national marketing fund also will devote the resources to getting DirecTV’s package showing every Major League Baseball broadcast in every Hooters in the United States, he added.
“The evolution of the menu and the brand will stop when consumers stop changing, which is never,” Marks said. “This isn’t an event that will come to some end point; it’s a constant evolution.”