The hollow slam of closing doors has been resounding over the freedom coated, testosterone soaked, grease dipped country on the other side of our globe. The doors, never to be opened again, once belonged to a beloved and cherished restaurant chain that will forever hold a deep and special place in the heart of every American. And as many Hooters stores shut their doors, for the final time, many tears are shed in it’s wake, the funeral a desperate reminder of all the good times lost. And yet, behind the moans and cries of heartbroken breastaurant patrons comes a small voice sighing ‘finally’.
Hooters has been a staple of American culture since the early 80’s where it was founded on the principals of having ‘fit and fabulous’ wait staff to attract your every day American. Raking in millions and millions of dollars, this breastaurant chain had, at it’s prime, well over 400 locations and thousands of employees. Only catch is that you have to be a woman to work the front of the restaurant. And while normally a female fronted chain would be seen as empowering, Hooters runs on a much more demeaning business model. Being known to turn down potential waitresses if they don’t live up to the beauty standards, the management at these chains set an atmosphere from the get-go that reminds women that they are only wanted for their looks and nothing else. A good personality or table manner will never quite live up to bleach-blond hair and well endowed chest for Hooters’ hirers. But then again, people who apply for the job know what they are getting in to, while not expressly written in the job description, the gimmick of the restaurant is wings with a side of ‘legs’, and who can forget the ‘chicken’ breast… if you catch my drift. The restaurant practically invites its clientele to ogle and objectify the wait staff under the pretence of being a ‘family restaurant’.
Many waitresses that have left the chain have not been shy about giving feedback on their experiences. Every Single One is quick to point out just how real the sexual harassment was for them and their co-workers. And yet all of them follow up with the sad statement of ‘you get used to it over time’ and ‘the money is worth it’ indicating that these women had to condition their responses to being comfortable with the hungry eyes, unwanted comments and often grabby hands. Some people compare their work to those who work in the sex industry like strip clubs or porn which many women find empowerment through their own sexuality. But in all reality, their is one startling difference. While much of the job description overlaps between the two work environments, the rules for interactions with strippers are very set in stone, strict and breakers of these rules are dealt with swiftly. Unless a stripper allows it, she is out of the reach of patrons and protected by security. Waitresses at Hooters are often not allowed such a privilege and the rules regarding their personal space are never clearly articulated to patrons, making their work less regulated, leaving them at the mercy of patrons.
Brittanny Anderson, past Hooter’s girl, current owner of Metzger Bar and Butchery, explained what it was like to work at Hooters. “It is an entire job based on sexual harassment… Everyone at Hooters is aware.” she later goes onto say that “We were taught that our jobs were less about selling food and more about selling the fantasy of the Hooters Girl”. And a study done by the University of Tennessee that interviewed women who had worked in this kind of environment found that all the women they interviewed suffered from some degree of depression, anxiety, fear and confusion. They also all identified the feeling of being demeaned in their workplace, with increased senses of body shame, and were more inclined towards eating disorders.
And in wake of the #Metoo and #Timesup movements, is there really any room left for a sexist institution that encourages a sexist culture? Well apparently, many people think not. In 2008 they had over 400 restaurants, 3 years later sees 35 locations close and millions of dollars in lost revenue. And over the next 4 years, from 2012 to 2016, 7% of the remaining restaurants shut their doors, with far more to come in 2018. And the issue has been obvious for years. In 2013, BrandIndex found that brand ratings of customers were shockingly low, with women scoring the restaurant -21 on a scale from -100 to 100, and men giving only 2 on this scale. This show some less than satisfied customers.
And this negative stigma is held quite widely. When Hooters tried to branch into the UK“, locals were unhappy. Protests against the restaurants soon followed, with many people being disgusted by the idea of getting a Hooters in their hometowns. The Hooters that did get planted over there didn’t fare as well as expected, with one restaurant shutting down after only a year of business.
So it’s no wonder they aren’t lasting, and it won’t be long until we see this long dying chain fade away like the outdated relic of a more ignorant time that it is. And Hooters will find it’s long forgotten place on the wrong side of history.