Your Local Neighbourhood Restaurant
If you’re looking for the perfect spot to catch a game with the guys, start a ladies night on the town, or enjoy a family brunch on a lazy Sunday afternoon, Hooters in South Africa has established itself as the ideal venue to cater to your dining and entertainment needs, with a unique All-American twist.
If you’ve never been to a Hooters restaurant, let me paint you a picture.
You walk in to a casual All-American sports bar are and are greeted by the warm buzz of chattering patrons and over 20 plasma TV screens showing you a glimpse of the latest sporting matches. You look around and notice metal road signs and photos of celebrities and local sports heroes peppered across the wood-paneled walls.
You’re greeted and seated by beautiful Hooters Girls in hot shorts and white running shoes, grinning and ready to take your orders.
And the food, oh the food. Saucy, fall-off-the-bone wings, juicy steaks, crunchy curly fries and pints of crisp, cold beer. It’s enough to make you want to go back for more the next day!
Easily one of the most famous casual dining restaurants in North America, Hooters and its distinctive branding has proven to be a successful model outside its borders as well and has been finding resounding popularity across South Africa since 2009.
“A lot of younger South Africans were familiar with the brand already through American reality TV and movies,” says Gordon Jestin, chief operating officer of Hooters South Africa. “It’s a unique brand and it definitely works.”
Less than three years later, the franchise has expanded to four restaurants across South Africa and is poised for extensive growth over the next decade.
South African Hospitality
The story of how Hooters came to the African continent begins when Mike Pruitt, the chief executive officer of Chanticleer Holdings (the parent company of Hooters South Africa) was visiting the Rainbow Nation. After seeing what a compelling market and people it had, he acquired the exclusive franchising rights, sought a local partner and began developing from there.
The first Hooters South Africa was opened in tourist-friendly Umhlanga, Durban in December 2009 after Jestin and his business partner renovated and re-branded their existing establishment into a world-famous Hooters.
“When we opened , it was a predominantly male place to watch sports and we had to go on a marketing campaign to get women and children and show it’s a family-friendly restaurant; a neighbourhood restaurant,” explains Jestin. “Luckily we had been in business there for 15 years, which made networking through the community far easier.”
Things grew organically from there. South African tourists visiting Durban got a taste of Hooters and by the time the company opened up its second store in the business hub of Johannesburg in 2010 (just in time for the World Cup) many people were already familiar with the brand.
“The beauty about people in South Africa is they’re absolute sports fanatics,” says Jestin. “One thing about the Hooters restaurants here, you’ll never find a better sports viewing restaurant in South Africa. Funnily enough, there was a gap in the market for that.”
Due to the positive reception of the All-American dining experience, Hooters opened up its third restaurant in Cape Town in 2011, its fourth in Emperors Palace Casino in Johannesburg and currently has more in the works.
The All-American Experience
Jestin and his team have worked hard to preserve the unique Hooters experience for all the South African locations. Everything from the décor, furniture, uniforms, logos and ambiance ensures that the guests in South Africa could easily be dining in any one of the hundreds of Hooters restaurants across the United States.
“Every time a new store opens, American Hooters Girls arrive in South Africa to train our girls. We also get the support of the Hooters of America kitchen trainers as well as head office staff. They make sure we open and execute properly,” says Jestin. “We train for two weeks before opening so when we do open, we’re ready. I think that’s crucial, but it’s also what makes it authentic.”
The girls at Hooters South Africa even participate in the annual swimsuit pageants where the local winner gets to compete in the Miss Hooters World competition. Jestin teases there may be hopes for a Hooters South Africa calendar in the future as well. And not unlike in the United States, the Hooters girls also act as brand ambassadors at golf tournaments, charity events and participate in many altruistic activities.
The only difference you’ll find in Hooters South Africa lies in the menu. “South Africa is a meat eating nation, so we requested to put out a few extra steak dishes since Africans love their red meat,” chuckles Jestin.
Looking to the Future
Based on the South African success thus far, Chanticleer Holdings and Hooters South Africa already have plans to unveil two more stores in 2013, with new establishments opening in Pretoria and possibly Bloemfontein.
“Our plans are to open one to two per year,” says Jestin. “Operationally these restaurants require a lot of focus and it’s not something you can rush. But by 2022, we’d like to be sitting with 15 more stores.”
Hooters South Africa has also recently appointed Darren Smith as its new chief financial officer ensuring all financial aspects of the business are in place as the company grows.
As for expansion into the rest of the continent, Chanticleer says that is always a possibility with its current strategy of expanding in emerging markets. However South Africa’s market has so much opportunity to explore that the organisation is happy to keep its focus there for now.
“In the old days, the proprietor was always the face of the business, now it’s the Hooters Girls,” says Jestin, “and that’s very, very unique in South Africa.”