Hooters Gets Rid of the Tack

Now celebrating its 30th anniversary, the famously kitschy brand is ready for a redesign—smart, sleek, and modern, with just the right amount of nostalgic appeal

Hooters’ prototype for new locations, located in Slidell, LA, has a more modern aesthetic with larger windows—a look that Sigmund calls “Hooters of the future.” (Photo: Henry McDaniel)

430+

Hooters locations worldwide

40

US states that have Hooters locations

160

Hooters locations that are corporately owned

30

Both the number of years Hooters has been in business, and the per-year rate of remodels

When you think of a restaurant that once famously called itself “delightfully tacky, yet unrefined,” you probably expect a bit of chintz, some cheekiness, and a big plate of hot wings. But now, Hooters, LLC, the iconic (and wry) American restaurant brand, is celebrating its 30th anniversary with a new sleek, modern, and airy prototype design and a reimagined brand image that is tacky and unrefined no longer. As Fred Sigmund, senior director of development, real estate, and construction, says, “[The prototype design] is intended to show the look of the ‘Hooters of the future.’”

Hooters was originally founded in Clearwater, Florida, in 1983 (on April Fool’s Day, to be exact) by six area businessmen: Lynn D. Stewart, a painting contractor; Gil DiGiannantonio, a liquor salesman; Ed Droste, a real estate executive; Billy Ranieri, a retired service-station owner; Ken Wimmer, a partner in Stewart’s painting business; and Dennis Johnson, a brick mason—the “Original Hooters Six.” None of them had much background in restaurant management, but they had a winning concept—simple food and pretty women—and a penchant for the aesthetic of classic Americana, reflected in their brand’s iconic and extensive use of wooden materials in dim, homey, laid-back interiors.

The interior of the new-construction  prototype has higher ceilings and an  open, airy layout meant to encourage  greater socialization between customers. (Photo: Henry McDaniel)
The interior of the new-construction
prototype has higher ceilings and an
open, airy layout meant to encourage
greater socialization between customers. (Photo: Henry McDaniel)

Due partly to the brand’s trademark wings and appetizer-style dishes—and largely to the Hooters Girls, with their fitted t-shirts and orange jogging shorts—Hooters rapidly gained attention, leading to aggressive growth over the following decades. Presently, there are more than 430 Hooters locations (160 of which are corporately owned and operated) in 40 states and more than 25 countries. But following the purchase of the business by a consortium of private investors in 2011, with H.I.G. Capital buying controlling interest, it became clear that the aesthetic referents and the general look of the brand were tied to a nostalgic era losing relevance in the digital, millennial age. So, the company has announced a new initiative: to update all its locations, from branding to food to store design and construction (and even to the outfits of the brand’s 20,000 Hooters girls). “The new design really reflects our vision of the future,” Sigmund says. “We’ve worked very hard to update all aspects of the total guest experience.”

“The seating layout itself allows you to be social but within your own environment so that you can more thoroughly enjoy the Hooters experience.” Fred Sigmund,  Senior Director of Development, Real Estate, and Construction
“The seating layout itself allows you to be social but within your own environment so that you can more thoroughly enjoy the Hooters experience.”
—Fred Sigmund, Senior Director of Development, Real Estate, and Construction

Sigmund has been largely responsible for developing the prototype for all new Hooters locations, the first of which opened in Slidell, Louisiana, this year. In a dramatic change from former Hooters restaurants, the new location has higher ceilings, larger windows, and a more open floor plan to encourage socialization and interaction among customers. Additionally, near the new bar, which is set up as an island, the restaurant features a 160-inch media wall, augmented by an upgraded A/V system that offers an immersive sports-viewing experience.

“We’ve also upgraded the furniture so that all of the tables have high-back chairs, we’re using more comfort seating at our bar, we’re incorporating more booths, and we’ve upgraded booth design to be more comfortable,” Sigmund says. “And the seating layout itself allows you to be social but within your own environment so that you can more thoroughly enjoy the Hooters experience.”

The patio is also better integrated with the interior, enlarging the restaurant experience and better opening the space to the outdoors. Finally, upgraded finishes throughout provide more texture and color, modernizing the Hooters aesthetic while preserving its roots. “This is the vision of the future,” Sigmund says. “When a ground-up restaurant is built, this is what will be built.”

The highlights of the new-construction prototype’s island bar include comfortable seating and a nearby 160-inch media wall with a souped-up A/V system. (Photo: Henry McDaniel)
The highlights of the new-construction prototype’s island bar include comfortable seating and a nearby 160-inch media wall with a souped-up A/V system. (Photo: Henry McDaniel)

The first new remodel prototype, opened this year in Kirby, Texas (near Houston), will also serve as a brand-wide example. The Kirby location takes cues from the modern elements at Slidell—large windows, textured interiors, redesigned floor plans—and incorporates them into an existing location. These elements will be factored into the overall reimaging plan, and Sigmund suggests that Hooters’ locations will ideally be refreshed at a rate of 30 per year.

“What makes this design different from the previous store design aesthetic is the openness, atmosphere, and brightness of the space,” Sigmund says. “We really want to be true to what our 30-year brand has been, and through design, we’re trying to bridge that.”

Upgraded wooden finishes add texture and color to the space, and the patio, separated from the interior by full-glass walls, better connects the space to the outdoors.
Upgraded wooden finishes add texture and color to the space, and the patio, separated from the interior by full-glass walls, better connects the space to the outdoors. (Photo: Henry McDaniel)
Fred Sigmund’s prototype for remodels, first unveiled in Kirby, TX, also incorporates richly textured wooden finishes and an open layout for a more refined look. (Photo: Jonathan Irvin)