Hooters of America president/c.e.o. Coby Brooks got more than he bargained for when he appeared on CBS’s Undercover Boss last February. He discovered that Hooters Girls often hold themselves in low collective esteem and are defensive about their work as, well, Hooters Girls. It’s a big problem if 17,000 of your restaurant chain’s 25,000 employees are women and you need a steady stream of replacements as your current workers move on.
To turn this psychology around, Brooks and Hooters have rolled out “Orange Pride,” an in-house public relations campaign designed to help current and future Hooters employees, particularly the Hooters Girls waitresses, feel better about their jobs and their company.
One aspect of this program is a series of national television ads that push the Orange Pride message (see it at www.hooters.com/OrangePride/media2.html). The spots contain no “eat at Hooters” content whatsoever, even though they are being broadcast to the general public. Instead, both the ads and the more-comprehensive web component emphasize career success stories involving ex-Hooters Girls who have become “entrepreneurs, students, teachers and career women.” We meet a doctor, a business owner (“I faced the discrimination of being a Hooters Girl for years and I am proud to consider myself a member of the elite ‘Hooters Sorority’”) and a corporate executive (“I wore the orange shorts proudly!”).
Another aspect of the internal campaign is an emphasis on community involvement and charitable giving. Units throughout the Hooters chain do plenty of it. The Orange Pride website draws together information about the many different efforts in one place, the better to make Hooters Girls aware of how much of this work goes on.
Other outreach is planned. Recently, the company came up with a response to the BP oil spill. Hooters Girls will donate 100,000 pairs of torn pantyhose that will be stuffed with hair, fur and fleece to serve as oil booms. With normal reuse, this effort should absorb one million gallons of oil from the Gulf, the company says.
Will the Orange Pride effort be enough to keep the supply of Hooters Girls equal to the demand? Stay tuned, and be glad your waitstaff hiring chores don’t include dealing with a preconceived notion that working for your restaurant is in some ways demeaning.