Coby Brooks, the CEO of Hooters of America gives the impression that he’s a family guy. So he probably understands the risk he’s taking bringing in outsiders to run one of the world’s most successful restaurant concepts, which is hurting in the downturn like so many other casual dining chains.
Brooks, featured just last weekend on the new CBS reality show “Undercover Boss,” sent a letter to real estate and food industry executives this week attempting to quell rumors that the family business is about to be sold. The letter states that the company is “engaged in the financial market to find the right partner or partners” for Hooters, according to this story from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Quick history lesson: Hooters started in Clearwater in 1983 as a hangout for six guys who wanted a sports bar with a little something extra, namely well-built waitresses in right-tight orange shorts and tank tops. Oh yeah, there’s also cold draft beer, spicy chicken wings and plenty of TVs, but it’s service that really matters, right?
Brooks’ dad, Bob Brooks, was part of an Atlanta-based investor group that bought expansion and franchise rights the year after Hooters started and became chairman in 2002. The son took over after the father died nearly five years ago.
While the standard Hooters uniform has remained a welcome constant going on 27 years, a few other subtle changes have come along to the billion-dollar chain. The women who work there get treated with a high degree of respect, complaints about exploitation are fewer and entire families can be seen dining there now (and if daddy’s picking up the check, he should still be able to pick the place).
The letter by Brooks reiterates a point he made on TV: “My intentions are to ensure our company has the leadership, capital and cultural strength to grow for another 25 years and beyond.” So while it’s not unusual to seek financial help in times like these, hopefully Hooters — like any good restaurant, or even someone’s home — will be very careful who they let in the door.