- HOA Brands, the franchisor and operator of over 400 Hooters restaurants, will expand its fast casual concept Hoots Wings with the launch of franchising, according to a press release sent to Restaurant Dive.
- The fast casual restaurant, which first opened in Chicago in 2017, has seven locations in Illinois, Georgia and Florida and offers a wings-focused menu with breaded bone-in, naked bone-in, boneless, smoked and roasted wings and over a dozen sauce and rub options.
- A handful of full-service chains, including Bloomin’ Brands and Cracker Barrel, have looked toward their fast casual brands to expand, but HOA is among the first to do so through franchising the concept. Hoots anticipates opening 17 locations in 2021, 35 locations in 2022 and 50 locations in 2023, with key expansion in 2021 focused on the Southeast, Midwest and Northeast.
With full-service restaurants being hit with a new round of indoor dining restrictions, restaurants are taking a renewed focus on off-premise and finding ways to improve the process. Limited-service restaurants are better equipped for off-premise, and many have added curbside, bulked up delivery and enhanced takeout to create a more contactless experience. Some fast casuals have even looked into adding drive-thrus where available.
While Hooters added curbside earlier this year and sports betting in Indiana, Pennsylvania and New Jersey in March, it had to lay off hundreds of workers in April in states like North Carolina, Missouri, Michigan and Indiana due to the challenges of the pandemic.
A focus on wings will benefit the burgeoning fast casual chain and its parent company. The menu item, which has seen incredible demand this year, has led to tremendous growth for those that have ventured into the space. Brinker’s It’s Just Wings concept, which is only a few months old, is expected to garner $150 million in annual sales.
While It’s Just Wings, Applebee’s Neighborhood Wings by Applebees and Smokey Bones’ The Wing Experience are all virtual brands, Hoots will likely benefit from having brick-and-mortar locations where customers don’t have to pay additional delivery fees. For example, Wingstop, which has over 1,200 locations in the U.S., has seen double-digit same-store sales growth, plans to expand its restaurants and has added about 6,000 new employees in the U.S. since the pandemic started, according to CNBC.
Hoots requires only two pieces of kitchen equipment and has an estimated initial investment of $448,500 to $1.2 million with franchise fees at $30,000. Franchisees will receive hands-on training during the opening process, marketing support, site selection and construction assistance, access to an existing supply chain and a POS system, according to the release.