In the growing Hooters tradition of seizing opportunities, HOA President, Bob Brooks, spotted the un-sponsored up-and-coming owner/driver Alan Kulwicki. The two cut a deal for the last NASCAR race of 1991 in Atlanta. That great exposure blossomed into a full sponsorship the following year, which resulted in the little underdog nicknamed “Mighty Mouse” winning the prestigious Winston Cup at the Hooters 500 on the very track where it all started. His reverse victory lap became a signature.
On April 1, 1993 – ten years to the day of Hooters first incorporation – tragedy struck. While on a promotional trip carrying the Hooters colors, fan-favorite Kulwicki, along with Mark Brooks, Dan Duncan and Charlie Campbell, all perished when their plane crashed outside of Bristol, Tennessee. The system mourned its champions but came back with greater resolve to honor their memory.
In 1995, Hooters of America Chairman Robert Brooks, who lost his son Mark in the crash, decided to jump into late model, short track racing and established the USA Hooters Cup Racing Series. Today, the USAR Hooters Cup Series is the premier short track series, which includes 24 events that culminates with the Robert H. Brooks Memorial Hooters 300 at the USA Speedway in Lakeland.
With new units and sales steadily increasing, Hooters went international. Tranquility set in for a brief time until. . .the EEOC. After four years of investigating Hooters’ policy of hiring only women to be Hooters Girls, the commission concluded that Hooters was discriminating against men by not hiring them to be Hooters Girls (huh?). In a move to protect the very essence of the concept, Hooters, Inc. and Hooters of America joined forces to bring their case to the world.
Soliciting grassroots support from customers and supporters, the gang took the first “Hooters Guy” (a virile and scruffy Hooters manager by the name of Vince Gigliotti) and hundreds of thousands of written protests to Washington to protest the EEOC’s investigation and findings. In a fluke of circumstance, the timing coincided with the government shutdown on November 15th, 1995. Hooters’ plight was the top media story of the moment. (Another then not-so-publicized event occurred simultaneously while the Hooters Girls Marched on Washington – an intern was delivering a pizza to a certain oval office. Coincidence? Maybe. . . but the Hooters Girls did march past the White House earlier that day.)
Representatives took the floor of Congress on Hooters’ behalf. Newt Gingrich took a stand on Meet the Press, while Crossfire and editorials across the country took up Hooters’ cause. The world responded, and finally, so did the EEOC. The future of the Hooters Girl was secured.
And everyone rejoiced by eating the really good food at Hooters.
Now, you may be asking yourself, what do John Daly, Tom Lehman, Jim Furyk, and David Toms have in common? Well, they all played in the NGA/Hooters Professional Golf Tour and, of course, have become household names on the PGA Tour. The NGA was an offshoot of the Jordan Tour that dates back to 1988. In 1994 Hooters CEO Robert H. Brooks joined forces with the Jordan Tour and it became the Hooters/Jordan Tour. In 1995 it became the Hooters NGA Hooters Pro Golf Tour and is currently the # 1 developmental professional tour in the country. The 2007 NGA Schedule includes 18 events with guaranteed $200,000 purses.
As Hooters’ menu expanded, so did its fame. By 1997 the system boasted customers from all age groups and all walks of life. They are all folks who have found “a cure for the common restaurant.” Cures are even available in grocery stores across the country with the emergence of Hooters Foods Wing Sauce, Breading, Hot Sauce, and HOA’s HooterAid.
As big as Hooters gets, they have never forgotten their roots and the communities they have prospered in. The system prides itself on its commitment to community and charity involvement by the restaurants and their wonderful employees. This commitment was necessary, unsurpassed . . . and so worth it.
Besides, people love the food.
Hooters has sponsored a jet car, shovel racing, and its own Arena Football team that everyone loved to beat. Then came the racing tour, pro golf tour, a radio show, a college bowl game and is eagerly awaiting the premiere of its Hooters Movie – and you thought this was a story!