Throughout the 80s
By late ’84, with Uncle Billy dealing with two hour waits to get in the door, the Hooters Six met and struck a deal with a likeable nut, Hugh Connerty, who wanted to take the restaurant worldwide. The deal was consummated with a flip of a coin in a local nightclub, and the secret wing sauce recipe changed hands, with Gil transferring them in a briefcase handcuffed to his wrist. (Because, remember . . . the food’s good.)
Neighborhood Restaurants (which later became Hooters of America) embarked on a bold development campaign under Hooters, Inc.’s trademark and oversight. Gradually the concept grew from Clearwater to Lakeland to Tampa to Atlanta. When an injection of capital was necessary to stimulate future growth, Connerty turned to a Texan named Jim Hammond. Then came Bob Brooks, founder and owner of a company in Atlanta called Eastern Foods, which supplied food products to restaurants and grocery outlets. A few years later, Brooks would take over from Connerty and build the company into an international concern.
Thanks to a lot of really good food.
In 1985, the first Hooters Calendar (1986 edition) debuted with its soon-to-be-famous feature girl, Lynne Austin. After noticing the magnetic appeal of the very photogenic L.A. (Va, Va, Va, Zoom!), Droste submitted her photo to PLAYBOY magazine, hoping to get exposure for the restaurant.
The magazine wrote back, “Who’s the beautiful girl?” Then came the exposure. Lynne, along with a story of Hooters, made her debut in the Centerfold of the July PLAYBOY in ’86, going on to become one of the most popular Playmates ever, with her video becoming one of the best sellers of all time. Sales of VCR’s skyrocketed. (Okay, we made that last part up. At least for Denny and Ed, they did.)
With the spotlight on L.A., Hooters hit the road. They featured her and the Hooters Girls at community events, charity functions, sporting and other major events. They created the industry’s most revolutionary marketing strategy – taking the show outside the restaurant to promote it person to person.
The Hooters Calendar soon became one of the top-selling calendars in the world, earning industry awards along the way. (We think people buy it mostly to read the articles). Through the calendar and corresponding radio appearances and talk show references, the fame of Hooters and the Hooters Girls spread universally.
In addition to her billboard appearances, Lynne became the Hooters spokesmodel. Her beauty, wit, and charm captured fans around the world and in every walk of life. Thereafter, the Hooters Calendar became known as a launching pad for major talent. Hundreds of Hooters Girls have used it as a springboard to successful modeling and acting careers.
It’s early ’87. Do you know where your Hooters are? A local television program director approached the Hooters Six with another revolutionary idea: Why not feature the Hooters Girls on late night T.V., introducing and hosting the late movie? Debuting as “Hooters Nite Owl Theater,” starring Lynne Austin, the show soon ranked #1 in its time slot. Fan mail poured in by the thousands . . . okay, dozens. The show was syndicated in 13 major markets nationwide, was renamed “Hooters Movie of the Weak,” and rapidly became a favorite with viewers for its Saturday Night Live-style comedy sketches and political skewers and began to beat out all the competition in its new afternoon time slot – including baseball! The show went off the air in 1995, victim of a legal skirmish between Hooters of America and Hooters, Inc., which would see the Hooters Six sending L.D. Stewart to HOA for future unnamed draft picks.