My younger brother and I were shooting the bull at Starbucks and trying to figure out where to grab a bite to eat afterwards. He jokingly suggested Hooters, and I said I'd never been there (he'd been every now and then). I never saw the point -- there are better places to talk to cute girls, better places for food, and my assumption was that most of the other customers would be the loser foot soldiers of some frat taking a break from their 7-11 diet and 30-hour-a-week video game regimen. But what the hell, let's see what it's like.
The first thing you notice is that most of the guys there are a lot older, like 30s through 50s, and maybe a handful of older 20-somethings. I didn't see any college or high school kids there, though there were about a dozen pre-pubescent children, including some infants, taken there by their parents. Hey, they've got to get some practice flirting with girls sometime before it counts for real. Of course, given how pussified the culture has become, none of them appeared to be seizing the opportunity. *
I wouldn't mind the age distribution so much, if it didn't put the waitresses so on the defensive. As I explained awhile ago, girls are most open to flirting and in general being carefree when there is a narrow range of ages, and they keep more to themselves when there's a broad range. A 19 year-old Hooters girl doesn't feel that she belongs to the social group that the customers belong to, so she isn't so much at ease as she would be if the customers were mostly around her age. It's probably going to be easier to joke around with a chick who works at Jamba Juice, where almost everyone is under 30 and therefore where she feels more at home and comfortable.
The girls were all good-looking, nothing skanky like I feared. They seemed pretty easy-going, unlike some other girls who get hired based on good looks but don't get tipped, such as go-go dancers. They reminded me of the pretty preppy / popular girls who felt comfortable chatting with guys from any of the many tribes within the high school, and not like the fake class president wannabe who just wanted your vote. Somewhat like how airline stewardesses used to be, before lawsuits turned them into middle-aged obese martinets.
I'm surprised that dolphin shorts are still a part of the uniform (the restaurant was founded in 1983). Their heyday was the late '70s and early '80s, yet there they are. They could have used more contemporary shorts that were lower-waisted and ran farther down the leg, as long as they were still orange shorts, but they've conserved a good look. Still, to complete their image of fun-loving sex appeal, they need to wear their hair bigger and not so straight and right next to the scalp like the style has been for the past 15-20 years. The dolphin short days were before the 10-cans-of-Aqua-Net days, so they wouldn't need to have it that big -- something like Phoebe Cates in Fast Times or Gremlins, poofed out enough to catch the eye instead of tissue-thin.
As far as I could tell, the prices weren't noticeably higher than their competitors like TGIFridays, Chili's, etc., and the quality of the food was similar. Actually, the mushroom and swiss burger and BBQ burger that I had were better than what you get at their competitors -- I think the Hooters burgers had more fat, like a Whopper, unlike the 98% fat-free patties that more "health-conscious" places use, and that crumble right away because there's no fat to hold it together.
In any case, there didn't seem to be any price premium that you were paying in order to have decent-looking and friendly waitresses. They weren't competing on price, but on the quality of the interaction with your waitress, which is important enough to enough people for Hooters to suck customers away from Fridays or Chili's on that appeal alone. (And in the other direction, Chili's or whoever sucks customers away from Hooters by offering a more sophisticated and so-called healthy menu, to draw in people who care too much what their peers think about their taste level.) Unless he's a friend, I hate being served by a dude, and ditto for women who are obese, snappy, or too awkward.
Aside from the quality of the waitresses and the food, another big plus was the background noise. Often in these kinds of restaurants and sports bars, there's some loud-ass TV -- CNN in an airport restaurant, ESPN in a sports bar, or whatever. If I wanted to watch TV, I'd be back home. They had several big-screen TVs with sports coverage, but the volume was on mute -- thank god. My brother and I had gone to Friday's just a couple nights ago, and they were playing only wuss rock and whiny pop-country music. At Hooters, there was a fair amount of bla-bla '90s music, but it was at least listenable -- "Alive" by Pearl Jam, "Fields of Gold" by Sting, and so on. Still, there was more than enough rock from the '80s to make up for it, some of it on the cheesier side (like "867-5309/Jenny"), but most of it really toe-tapping ("Don't Stop Believin,' " "And She Was," "New Sensation"). They just need to replace the '90s junk with some classic rock from the '60s and '70s. Overall, though, the music was a breath of fresh air compared to just about every other public space nowadays.
Most of the decorations on the wall were pictures of the girls with various people, whether celebrities or loyal customers I couldn't tell, and some cheesy posters showing how self-aware they are about not being a place that competes on sophistication. That point could be made more subtly and clearly by having a wall-poster equivalent of their music selection: a 1967 Mustang, Michael Jordan, The Bangles, Risky Business, Paulina Porizkova in Sports Illustrated, etc., mixed in with pictures of the local Hooters girls. That mix would give it more of the feel of your room during high school and college, which is obviously when the restaurant wants to take you back to.
So, on the whole, Hooters was the best place I've eaten at in this broad category of restaurant / bar chains. I can talk to and dance with cute girls and listen to better music at '80s night, and I can eat better at a Brazilian grill, although that costs more. But for the purposes of just going out to grab a bite to eat with your brothers or friends, this place is the easiest to relax and enjoy yourselves.
* And yes, back in 1983 when I was just a toddler, I ran cold approach game on multiple girls when I was out in public. Children were just that way back then -- we could smell the sexual revolution in the air, and had to adapt our behavior to that environment. I don't know where I learned it from, perhaps I figured it out on my own, but in a crowded place I used to walk up to a girl or woman, take her hand without asking permission, give it a big smooch, then look up at her with my wide 3 year-old eyes and explain, "Charming!" with a smile. I only vaguely remember this, but my parents say I did it most when there were lots of targets, like walking up and down the aisles of an airplane, through the tables at the food court in a mall, etc.
Both my parents egged me on whenever we went out -- "Hey agnostic, go do 'charming!' " The girls always got a big kick out of it, smiling, laughing, rubbing my hair, etc. This shows how accepting adults were of young people growing up fast -- they knew that if the world I would confront was a wild one, I'd better get prepared for it. Hence the encouragement from my parents and the positive reinforcement from the girls I went up to. Nowadays parents would be paralyzed by the thought of what embarrassment might result, and girls would be accepting but still unsure whether it was OK to go along with it or not.