The Real Reasons Hooters Locations Are Disappearing

Next year, 2023, will mark the 40th anniversary of the restaurant known for copious amounts of chicken wings and beer. Hooters was founded in October of 1983, and in its four decades of operation, the chain has become something of an American icon. Today, while you might think of Hooters as a nearly ubiquitous chain with locations dotting every major city in America, in fact, Hooters is an entity in decline with locations steadily disappearing.

From a peak of around 430 units less than a decade back, the chain has been steadily shrinking of late. According to the data company Smart Scrapers, there were 311 Hooters restaurants in America in the spring of 2021, and per data from ScrapeHero, by the fall of 2022, that figure had fallen further to just 304 Hooters restaurants in America. (Hooters also has a decent overseas presence, with locations in Europe, Asia, Central America, and Africa, but many of these far-flung units have closed as well.)

Why is this famous "breastaurant" seeing so many locations shutting down for good? The reasons are many and some of them are multi-layered, so let's look at the issue in a step-by-step way.

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1

The pandemic was punishing to Hooters

hooters to go
hooters to go

Thousands of restaurants across America shut their doors for good during the pandemic. As many as one in six American eateries shut down, in fact, according to the New York State Restaurant Association. This included one-off restaurants, entire chains like Souplantation (called Sweet Tomatoes in some places), and multiple locations from other chains. Hooters lost millions of dollars in business during the lockdowns of the early months, and many locations would never open again. This included Hooters restaurants in many major markets, like California's Bay Area, per The Mercury News, and Phoenix, Arizona, where one location shut down after 32 years in business.

2

Hooters was already on a downward slide

The pandemic was the final nail in the coffin for many Hooters locations, but already the chain had been dying off well before the advent of SARS-CoV-2. Per Business Insider reporting from 2017, Hooters had failed to capture the interest of Millennials who just weren't interested in the "breastaurant" concept. In fact, many members of the younger generations that are just now becoming full consumers are actually quite put off by it.

RELATED: 7 Strict Rules That Have Gotten Hooters Girls Fired

3

Leadership and ownership have changed hands many times

Hooters
Hooters

Stability is key for any organization that hopes to thrive—or even to survive long-term. But in the 21st century, Hooters has experienced anything but stability when it comes to owners and C-suite executives. There have been four CEOs since 2003, for example. And according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the chain was bought by a group of private investors in 2011. And then it went up for sale again just four years later in 2015, writes Restaurant Business Online, though a sale could not be made. Hooters was finally sold off again in 2019.

4

The menu has failed to evolve and adapt

hooters servers food and beer
hooters servers food and beer

People may have claimed in the past that they went to Hooters for the food, not to ogle the servers, but according to Mashed, this justification hardly holds up anymore, because the food at Hooters has not evolved over time. And even as the Hooters menu has remained stagnant, myriad other chains have expanded, like Buffalo Wild Wings, for example, that offer the same foods without the awkwardness.

RELATED: 5 Major Reasons Buffalo Wild Wings Is Headed Downhill,  According to Customers

5

Hooters has tried a number of failed ventures

hooters
hooters

While the company's less breast-centric spin-off restaurant chain Hoots seems to be working out okay, that's the exception when it comes to new ventures for Hooters. For example, between 2003 and 2006, the chain inexplicably ran its own airline, Hooters Air, according to Vox, a failed venture that lost the company some $40 million. And from 2006 to 2019 Hooters owned and operated a casino and in Las Vegas, the Hooters Casino Hotel, a venture that lost money annually and came near bankruptcy on several occasions prior to its selloff, per the Las Vegas Sun.