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brand makeovers

A Smirk-Free Look at Hooters' Uplifting Turnaround Plans

Posted by Dale Buss on August 3, 2012 02:03 PM

Facing more and more competition in the "breastaurant" business, Hooters, the founding and classic big brand in the genre, is looking to overhaul its service, menu and marketing.

The visual focus at Hooters always will be on "Hooters Girls," but CEO Terry Marks — who came aboard late last year — believes the chain can take a big step forward by also upgrading its service, menu and marketing.

"People want any reason to engage or re-engage with the brand," he told Nation's Restaurant News. "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 th food and the Hooter Girls' hospitality."

So, calling his plan "Hooters 2.0," Marks has kicked off a number of changes — including a new ad campaign (watch below) and tagline, "Feed the Dream" — to start "positioning Hooters as a place to celebrate any day or occasion," as NRN put it. And yes, there are owl puppets ... with eyes suggestive of Hooters' hostesses' iconic assets.

Of course, that kind of positioning also brings Hooters closer to conflict with other chains such as Buffalo Wild Wings or even Applebees. So don't expect the chain to stray too far from its major differentiator.

In the first TV commercial, for instance, a lifeguard is getting some all-too-candid glimpses of the swimsuited bodies of the gray-haired crowd at the YMCA-type pool he is watching, so as soon as he can he ditches out for lunch at Hooters — where a pair of Hooters Girls present the kind of contrasting scenery (and good-looking food too) that you could expect, or dream about.

The CEO said that the chain also can do a better job of paying attention to its guests and is re-training Hooters Girls for that. That should hlep differentiate Hooters from the proliferation of like-themed competitors such as Twin Peaks and The Tilted Kilt.

Marks also believes that Hooters can aim for more game-day, sports-bar business by boosting audio-visual capabilities at Hooters -- but without becoming a me-too brand. "We should be able to compete head-to-head with anybody on the game-day occasion," Marks said.

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