(Author’s Note: The following is the first entry in which may be a mulit-part series of pieces on my interactions and candid conversations with current and former Hooters Girls ….but I doubt it.)
Hooters was founded in 1983 in Clearwater, Florida. According to their website, to date, there are over 430 Hooters franchises in 28 countries. Multiply that by the number of servers (known as Hooters Girls) each franchise has employed over the years, and that’s tens of thousands of current and former Hooters Girls with a story to tell.
Over the past few years, I’ve spoken candidly with several current and former Hooters Girls about their experiences as Hooters Girls and their reasons for working at the popular restaurant chain with the double-entendre name. I’m, in no way, implying that working at Hooters should be equated to working at a strip gentlemens club or go go bar. Hooters is a restaurant patronized by the general public. In fact, some may even consider it family friendly. I’ve seen entire families with young children come into Hooters and sit down for a meal. The girls even brought coloring placemats and crayons to the tables for the kids. However, you don’t see servers like these ladies at Denny’s or Applebees.
Of course, the girls do have to tolerate a certain amount of leering, sexual innuendos, and flirtation, but many have told me it’s a small price to pay in exchange for the gratuities they receive. The tips the girls get at Hooters are much better than what they would get from working as servers at Denny’s, Applebees, or even a upper scale restaurant, where the 15%-20% rule is usually followed. Any former or current Hooters girl will tell you that quite often, the amount of the tip will greatly exceed the amount of the check. In addition, the hours and schedules the girls work are more flexible than those at a “regular” restaurant. That’s because many of the girls have outside careers they pursue, many in modeling and the performing arts. For example, “Julie,” a tall, Asian-American semi-professional model when the above photo was taken in 2010 at the Dowtown Phoenix Hooters where she worked and enjoyed a sort of celebrity status.
As with other occupations where attractive young ladies capitalize on their physical charms to make money, Hooters Girls utilize certain ploys and emphasize their assets (sure, pun intended) to ensure big tips, in addition to complying with Hooters Girl regulations. In fact, the Hooters employee handbook (which is to Hooters Girls what AR 670-1 is to US Army soldiers) states that the ladies need to be wearing makeup, with their hair down, and “camera ready” at all times. An excerpt from the official Hooters Employees’ Book:
Customers can go to many places for wings and beer, but it is our Hooters Girls who make our concept unique. Hooters offers its customers the look of the “All American Cheerleader, Surfer, Girl Next Door.” The essence of the Hooters Concept is entertainment through female sex appeal, of which the LOOK is a key part. When you are in the Hooters Girl Uniform you are literally playing a role; having been cast for that role, you must comply with the Image and Grooming Standards that the role requires.
“Cynthia,” a former Hooters girl whom I had a positive eBay dealing with, told me she’d worked at a total of four Hooters locations: Baltimore, Laurel (Maryland), Washington DC, and Redskins Stadium. After I very politely, and only once, messaged her through Facebook about a brief interview for this piece, where no real names would be used, she coldly declined and then immediately “unfriended” me. Strange, since she was very cordial through her previous e-mail correspondence and even sent me a photo of her in uniform, taken at one of the Hooters franchises she’d worked at.
Some Hooters restaurants seem to have a “queen bee,” who acts as if her primary job function is to simply grace the establishment with her presence and allow the customers the privilege of drinking in her beauty, rather than being served by her. Perhaps she may even be a bit of a local celeb. In fact, the creators of the very short-lived Hallie the Hooters Girl comic book probably based the main character on such a girl he knew of. Usually this girl is just working at Hooters as a means to pay the bills until her modeling/acting/whatever career takes off. One prime example of this breed of Hooters Girl that gave me this impression was the aforementioned “Julie.”
“Brenda,” a girl I interviewed for a feature at this site before I knew she was a former Hooters Girl, was gracious to give me a reply after I found out she used to wear the orange and white (and sometimes black). She was a Hooters girl from 1997-1998 at a Florida location (Hooters’ home state). Her words to me:
For the most part, the girls got along well. Competition was always around. Who lost weight, who gained, who got hit on more, who got the bigger tips, etc. I got hit on all the time as we all did. Ploys, of course, flirting, is the key to getting bigger tips. I know I would suggest certain things like maybe give them my number but never really do it. Make sure to bend over just so ….stuff like that. Most girls were only using it as a way to get further in modeling. The girls I knew loved working for Hooters. I never saw it as demeaning. I mean, a lot comes from working for the company. The biggest tip I ever got was $150. The biggest I saw was $300. Ended up getting married and it was to the military, so I had to quit. We moved.
Since Hooters is a US-based chain, its overseas locations draw a good number of (if not mostly) Western clientele. For girls looking to improve their English skills and get paid while doing so (rather than the other way around), it affords them an excellent opportunity. “Jessie” (her “Hooters Girl name”) had no problem being a Hooters Girl then and had no problem saying she was a former Hooters Girl when I interviewed her in 2011, worked at the Seoul, Korea Hooters. When I asked her about her experience there, she simply said; “It was a great job and I got to use English a lot.”
“Nomi,” another lady, who launched a fairly successful car show modeling career and was a Hooters Girl (and perhaps still is) at the Tokyo, Japan location when I contacted her, told me it’s against the rules of the Japan Hooters restaurants for the girls to tell the “public” they work there. (Yeah, so who does she thinks the customers she serves are? Members of an underground secret society?) She did say she did not like working at Hooters and told me to send her my questions and she’s think about answering them as long as her name wasn’t used here. However, with her very next sentence, she changed her mind, and asked me to ask other girls, instead. I doubt she’s typical of the Japanese Hooters Girls, who seem to enjoy their work and view their roles as Hooters Girls as an opportunity to be sort of ambassadors for their country (as many of their customers are foreigners to Japan) rather than something that’s beneath them or a waste of their valuable talents. Since Nomi’s modeling career seemed to be flourishing, I wondered why she even needed a “day job” at Hooters, especially since she felt the way she did about working there. Perhaps her earnings as a model weren’t quite enough to maintain the lifestyle she wanted.
All in all, and at the risk of offending some current or former Hooters Girls, the varied reasons girls for working at Hooters would match up with the varied reasons strippers exotic dancers give for working at strip gentlemens club or go go bars ….not that I’m implying that working at Hooters should be equated to working at a strip gentlemens club or go go bar. Hooters is a restaurant patronized by the general public. Just don’t tell them Nomi works/worked there.