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Is time running out for Hooters?

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Between 2012 and 2016, the so-called “breastaurant” that’s been around since the ’80s lost 7 percent of its locations and sales are stagnating, according to a Business Insider report.

But why?

A number of articles are all pointing out that Hooters has had a blind spot when it comes to appealing to Millennials, citing efforts by the business to adjust on the fly.

A food industry expert said in an interview with Time five years ago that Hooters needed to bring in the younger consumers.


“For years, they’ve only been working toward Generation X, but now they need to try to get Millennials to come through the doors,” Darren Tristano of Technomic said.

Fast forward to today, and things do not seem to be going much better. Efforts to update the menus and the looks of their restaurants haven’t stopped Hooters from losing restaurants, leading to speculation as to why.

One possible reason comes from a survey about pornographic search trends, which found that people between the ages of 18 and 24 are 19 percent less likely to search for breast-related content, while those ages 55 to 64 are 17 percent more likely to do so.

Could it really be this simple? The answer is no, but it’s something to think about.

Business Insider offered a, well, business explanation. Hooters isn’t the only casual dining chain to feel the pain of declining sales.

In other words, this is an industry-wide problem.

Food Newsfeed delved deeper into this problem in an article from 2016 headlined “Are We Witnessing the Death of Casual Dining?” In that piece, the plight of “mid-scale” casual dining establishments is explored.

Victor Fernandez, who tracks insights in the food industry for TDn2K, said that it’s obvious the “percentage of brands that are positive is shrinking.”

“When you think about from recession until now, it’s all been negative traffic growth every year,” he says. “It’s less and less guest occasions than what we had the previous year, so that’s the main concern for the chain restaurant industry.”

Fernandez said that since the recession these types of restaurants have been struggling to compete with others that have quicker service.

“Quick service has been doing much better, and it has been doing much better for the last year or two. They’re able to drive some positive [comparable restaurant] numbers for both sales and traffic, so they’re in a much better spot,” he said. “Full-service has been struggling a bit more, and within that, casual dining is really the sub-segment that is struggling the most. If you drill down a little bit more, it’s the bar and grill sector that’s really having the most trouble.”

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Full-service food demand being down is bad news for Hooters and every other business, but when you combine that with other trends related to Hooters’ business model, the number of restaurant closures might only increase.

.(Photo: Flickr Creative Commons/BemLoira BemDevassa)

Matt Naham About the author:
Matt Naham is the Weekend Editor  for Rare. Follow him on Twitter @matt_naham.
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