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to customers who miss the Hooters experience because of its food (and critics who felt its values were a little outdated), the 38-year-old company has finally introduced a new restaurant concept that may appeal to customers whose favorite thing about Hooters really is the chicken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.
Meanwhile, in recent years Hooters had been trying to stay in the game with the 2017 introduction of Hoots—from OriginalHooters.com:
"What do you do after you have been World Famous for 35 years? You create a fast version of yourself, that's what. Meet hoots [sic]. We took our most popular menu items, prepared and served in a smaller, quicker style. No Hooters Girl? No problem. Hoots is primarily to-go, with easy online ordering and on-site touchscreen kiosks, in addition to traditional counter ordering."
Until now, the new Hooters spinoff had not made a significant splash in the market—but with the past year of pandemic struggles, Hooters is officially making a hard run at Hoots Wings. Since 2017, just seven Hoots Wings locations existed across Florida, Georgia, and Illinois… but recently, Hoots Wings announced a partnership that is projected to open 60 Hoots Wings stores around Austin and the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex over the next decade, with six of those opening as soon as this summer and another dozen said to follow by year's end.
Hoots Wings restaurants are a smaller answer to traditional Hooters' locations, this time (really) focusing on the food. But still, this chain's probably not for everybody… especially anyone who wants to eat wisely. Some items on the classic Hooters appetizer menu contain over 1,000 calories, which is well over half the calories most of us should eat in a day—and that's not even getting into fat, sodium, the main course, or a pitcher. More nutritious options are their salads (topped with grilled proteins, not fried), "Daytona-style" dry-rub wings, steamed seafood dishes, or fish tacos, with about half the calories or less of many Hooters fried dishes.