The world’s preeminent “wing joint” celebrates 30 years of success in 2013. No matter what you think of the “ambiance” at the premier chicken wing restaurant on the planet, Hooters has certainly met with neon orange success during its 3 decades in business. Getting past the first couple of years in the restaurant business is tough.

Finding yourself a household name and successful brand in umpteen nations after 30 years takes that success to an entirely different level.

Hooters Marketing Strategy

Public relations guru and CEO of 5WPR in NYC, Ronn Torossian, takes a look at what has helped Hooters find its way into the fabric of our culture as a perennial success.

They were bold

There is a story told of one of Hooters original owners spotting an abandoned, half sunk boat just off one of Clearwater, Florida’s most traveled highways. Sensing an opportunity, the owner swam out to the boat with orange spray paint and painted HOOTERS on the exposed hull. Best advertising a $5 can of spray paint could buy.

They tried new things

The guys needed someone to be the “face” of the company. They discovered Lynn Austin on the day she won a bikini contest in the FL panhandle. Despite being, at the time, unrefined and unaccustomed to the spotlight, Austin turned out to be the perfect mix of flirty, all American girl next door, and she became the face of the brand for years.

They were likeable

Hooters never tried to be anything other than what they were, a fun and completely unpretentious wing joint in a community chock full of 5-star dining and beach-themed shrimp shacks. Their target market loved the surf and turf feel of the place and soon flocked to the chicken joint.

They were definable

In branding, the most important aspect is how prospects and customers define your brand in their minds. In the restaurant biz, if your customer can’t think the following simple equation: I want this = I’ll go here, then you are likely headed for failure.

They kept it simple

No goofy revolving gimmicks and no weird menu permutations. Hooters kept it simple: Friendly, sexy girls selling the perfect food for guys on game day. Complex menus and keeping customers guessing may seem like a great idea, but in reality it can doom brands to nebulous mediocrity.

They do the right things right

Hospitality and presentation are still two of the most important aspects of success in the restaurant business. Hooters maintains a reputation for being one of the most welcoming, friendly and fun places to nosh on pub grub.

Torossian says these success secrets may not seem like the answer to the riddle of the sphinx, but they are exactly the sorts of things aspiring business people often get wrong.

“Look at how many copycat restaurants and bars have come and gone in the past 30 years. Sure, it seems like an easy model to recreate, but the secret to Hooters’ success is more than cute servers in skimpy outfits. If that’s all you bring to the table, you won’t last in the food and beverage business.”

“From a branding perspective,” Torossian added, “Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it’s also the easiest way to completely miss the point and set yourself up for failure.”