Hooters of America, the restaurant chain known for its wings and waitresses, has been sold to Nord Bay Capital and TriArtisan Capital Advisors, the parties announced late Monday in a news release.
The sellers included H.I.G. Capital, Chanticleer Holdings and other investors, although financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“The partnership with Nord Bay and TriArtisan comes at an ideal time for the company, bringing fresh partners with complementary skills and experience to support our next phase of growth to the benefit of all our employees, franchisees and customers,” Terry Marks, Hooters’ CEO, said in a statement.
In recent years the breastaurant chain has struggled with public perception and restaurant closures. In fact, the number of Hooters locations in the US dropped by more than 7 percent from 2012 to 2016, according to industry reports.
The brand responded to dipping sales by launching a fast-casual spinoff of Hooters called Hoots in 2017, which was designed to deliver a quicker dining experience. This desexualized, counter service-only restaurant does away with the iconic Hooters uniform of orange shorts and tight white tank tops. It also departs from the company’s policy of only hiring female servers.
The first Hoots location was opened in Chicago two years ago and since then two more locations in that area have been planned as well as another in Atlanta, and according to Marks that is just the beginning of the expansion plans.
“Our core business is strong with a world-famous and differentiated brand, a first-rate management team and a loyal base of experienced franchisees,” he said. “In addition, we are pleased with the early results of our new fast-casual concept and plan additional openings later this year.”
Hooters has been losing popularity among consumers, especially millennials, in part due to the now-dated restaurant concept and server uniforms. Going forward, the new owners say the needs of the modern consumer will guide brand decisions.
“Terry and the senior leadership team have done a tremendous job elevating the Company and tapping into what today’s consumer wants. We are confident about the future growth of this great brand,” said Rohit Manocha, a TriArtisan Founding Partner.
The term “breastaurant” dates back to the early 1990s when Hooters first became popular in the US. Since then the chain has inspired a spate of imitators, such as Titled Kilt and Twin Peaks. Although many have questioned whether there is still a place for these types of establishments in 2019, particularly in an era of heightened sensitivity to the mistreatment of women in the workplace, fueled by the #MeToo movement.