As Chipotle, Panera and similar restaurants advertising higher quality at a faster pace continue to gain popularity, Hooters, the long-time chain known for wings, short shorts and table service, is dipping its toe into the fast-casual waters. The Clearwater-based Hooters Management Corp., the smaller of the two companies that operate Hooters restaurants around the world, announced Tuesday it will open Hoots, A Hooters Joint, outside of Chicago next month. Hoots will feature an abbreviated, one-page menu with some of the most popular items from full-service Hooters restaurants, including its classic chicken wings, in a new, scaled-down concept that’s part of the fast-casual trend, a news release said. The initial Hoots, located in Cicero, Ill., will be 2,800 square feet, with 75 seats and a full-service bar, but will rely on counter service for both take out and dine-in customers, rather than having servers come to guests’ tables. It’s expected to open in mid-February. One thing customers won’t be seeing at Hoots: the iconic Hooters uniform of orange shorts and tight white tank tops that helped earn the chain distinction as a “breastaurant.” Spokeswoman Lizz Harmon said that the Hoots concept will eschew the revealing outfits, and will also feature both male and female servers at the counter. Hooters Management Corp. CEO Neil Kiefer is part of the group that opened the original Hooters restaurant in Clearwater on Gulf to Bay Boulevard in 1983.
It’ll be interesting to see if this idea catches on..