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Hooters Once Had an Airline and 5 Other Facts About the Restaurant Chain

Photo Credit: Becker & Bredel / ullstein bild via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Becker & Bredel / ullstein bild via Getty Images

A lot of people have a lot of thoughts about Hooters restaurants, and they aren’t always good. While the restaurant is primarily recognized for its attractive waitresses, there are many other aspects of the business that may surprise you. Unless you’re a die-hard regular at a Hooters, here are six facts about the franchise that you probably didn’t know.

The founders thought it would fail before it even opened

A man walking into a Hooters, two girls to greet him.
The original founders of Hooters thought it was going to be a failure before it even opened. (Photo Credit: Ethan Miller / Getty Images)

Before Hooters became an actual restaurant, it was the brainchild of six businessmen who wanted to develop a place where people like them could enjoy food and drink while having a good time – and not get kicked out while doing so. They wanted a male-oriented establishment but weren’t sure how it would fare among the general public.

The six men incorporated the Hooters franchise on April 1, 1983. This is an important date, as it is April Fool’s Day. With no restaurant experience between the six of them, the founders weren’t sure if a place with wood interiors, nostalgic music, and Hooters Girls would really work out. By choosing to incorporate it on April Fool’s Day, they would be saved from embarrassment if the business was a failure. Little did they know it would become an absolute success. The first restaurant opened its doors on October 4th, 1983, in Clearwater, Florida.

The name came from an ‘SNL’ skit

The Hooters sign.
Many people think that the “oo” in Hooters resembles both an owl’s eyes as well as a women’s breasts. (Photo Credit: Raymond Boyd / Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images)

When it came to naming the business, the founders got their inspiration from a unique place. Considering that Hooters Girls were to be such a major part of the dining experience there, it seemed only fitting to center the restaurant’s name around them. Trying to craft a male-centric experience, they chose to focus on women’s breasts as the pull for patrons.

It is unclear which of the six suggested Hooters for the name, but it allegedly came from a Saturday Night Live monologue performed by Steve Martin back in the early 1980s. In the skit, he says, “I believe it’s derogatory to refer to a woman’s breasts as boobs, jugs, Winnebagos, or golden bozos, and that you should only refer to them as hooters.” That little statement was enough to spark the successful restaurant chain, encompassing exactly what the founders intended.

A bet helped hire the first Hooters girl

Many people remember the first official Hooters Girl, Lynne Austin. Before she joined the company, Austin competed in bikini competitions. As the restaurant was intended to center on beautiful women, one of the founders bet that he could convince the winner of a Jose Cuervo bikini contest to become the first Hooters Girl.

Austin won the contest but turned down the offer to become a Hooters Girl. Just in case, the founder gave her one of his business cards if she ever changed her mind. She was working as a phone operator at the time, and when the company she was working for refused to give her the time off for another bikini competition, she decided to quit and become the Hooters Girl. She appeared on billboard ads across Clearwater, Florida, becoming somewhat of a celebrity as the restaurant grew. Riding the wave of her beauty to fame, she became a Playboy Playmate in 1986.

Their calendar is one of the best-selling in the world

Three Hooters Girls sit at a table signing autographs
The Hooters calendar sells over a half a million copies a year. (Photo Credit: Unknown author / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)

One of the things Hooters is best known for is the yearly calendar the company puts out. The calendar was first launched in 1986 and, at a time when they weren’t sure if it was going to do well, only 2,500 copies were printed. There weren’t many Hooters locations at that time either, but the copies that were available sold out pretty quickly.

Since then, the Hooters calendar has become one of the best-selling of its kind, printing more than half a million copies. They feature women who are actual Hooters servers, giving men the impression that they could one day be served by the woman seen on the pages. Additionally, the calendar is completely out of order, so buyers have to look through every single page until they find the month they’re looking for.

Hooters once operated an airline

Hooters Air plane on a runway.
The Hooters Air airline company only operated from 2003 to 2006. (Photo Credit: / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0)

Believe it or not, there was once a time when Hooters owned and operated its own airline. It first began flying in 2003, and offered travelers heaps of legroom and complementary meals for flights over an hour. Along with trained airline stewards, two Hooters Girls in uniform would also be aboard every flight to help care for and serve travelers. They marketed the business with the slogan, “Fly a mile high with us.”

Unfortunately, the business didn’t really take off (pun intended). While people did choose to fly Hooters Air, the rising cost of airline gas prices was enough to drive the business into the ground after only three years. The chairman of Hooters, Bob Brooks, said in a statement, “The flying industry is in a terrible mess…. I’ve got a fair amount of money, but I don’t have enough to fix this animal.”

The Hooters Girls’ earnings make may surprise you

Three Hooters Girls posing for a photo.
Hooters Girls’ tips can vary, but they often walk away with a pocket full of cash. (Photo Credit: Astrid Stawiarz / Getty Images)

When it comes to serving, a lot of workers rely on tips. While some may guess that Hooters Girls earn a lot of tips given the combination of the revealing outfit they are expected to wear, the beauty requirement necessary to work at a Hooters restaurant, and the clientele that frequent Hooters, most Hooters Girls actually make a pretty average amount of tips. 

One Hooters Girl shared a video of her counting her tips following a shift, and people are shocked to hear how much money she made. In total, she counted $382. Viewers have commented on the video, with one person saying, “It’s so refreshing to see you being so grateful even for the not so large tips.” To those who felt that isn’t that much money, another person wrote, “You guys keep saying so little money but she literally made $42 an hour for an 8 hour shift…”

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We think that’s a pretty good chunk of change at the end of the day.

Samantha Franco

Samantha Franco is a Freelance Content Writer who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Guelph, and her Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Western Ontario. Her research focused on Victorian, medical, and epidemiological history with a focus on childhood diseases. Stepping away from her academic career, Samantha previously worked as a Heritage Researcher and now writes content for multiple sites covering an array of historical topics.

In her spare time, Samantha enjoys reading, knitting, and hanging out with her dog, Chowder!