OCEAN CITY – In efforts to increase the number of ways that they can make you happy, Hooters of Ocean City has spread its wings.
During its opening for the season last night at the 123rd Street location, Hooters of Ocean City unveiled a full bar that includes liquor and specialty drinks, such as mojitos and martinis. General Manager Matthew J. Ortt said that even in these tough economic times, Hooters wants to be at the top of the list when people think of value and fun.
“It’s scary times out there in the economy, but all we can do is do what it is that we do well,” said Ortt, “We can’t control how many people come to Ocean City, but what we can do, is make sure that when they come through our doors, they have a great experience, so much so that they want to tell their friends about it, and they leave knowing they got the experience for a good value. That’s what’s made us successful here for 14 years.”
Ortt says that all of the bars inside the restaurant have been redesigned to hold up to 36 different kinds of liquor and a wide variety of “Hooters specific” specialty drinks. Ortt says that consistency will be the biggest attraction to customers.
“We had trainers come up from the corporate offices in Atlanta, Ga., and train our girls to make the drinks consistent as they are at any Hooters in the country,” said Ortt. “They’ll get the same 1983 golden margarita as they would at the other 454 Hooters restaurants that are out there, which makes us very excited.”
With the addition of liquor to the Hooters repertoire, Ortt said that nine new LCD flat-screen televisions have been installed to cater to the large numbers of sports fans who come to the restaurant seven days a week.
Despite the changes, Hooters will continue to offer value deals like their famous Tuesday Wingfest (wings for 50 cents) and a daily happy hour from 4-7 p.m. with “drastically reduced drink and beer prices”. New to the value list is a Limited Time Optional menu, which will be a revolving-type menu offering deals on selected items throughout the season. A “Wing Wednesday” deal has also been added this season as well, which when paired with the summer’s popular bikini fashion shows and Sunday live entertainment, Hooters will have some sort of value deal seemingly every day of the week.
Ortt says the staff is considerably more excited for the opening this year than compared to recent years.
“If things are the same every year, it’s hard to get excited for an opening,” said Ortt, “but we are very excited to be open and the atmosphere is electric around here, almost like it’s ‘Cruisin’ weekend’, which is kind of our claim to fame at 123rd Street.”
Hooters is historically bursting at the seams on Cruisin’ weekend and most weeks in the summer months, and the consistency combined with incredible efficiency has helped it earn the ranking as the number one Hooters location in the summer months for several years running.
According to Hooters of America, Inc. numbers, there are over 445 Hooters in 43 states, and 27 different countries, including a new one in Iraq, but the amount of business that the Ocean City location does in the summer months is staggering when comparing it to larger and more densely populated areas.
“There are some stores in Florida and Texas that are doing what we do in the summer all weeks of the year,” said Ortt, “but, if you took July in Ocean City and got that 12 months a year, we’d probably be the number one store in the chain all year long.”
Still, the main draw at Hooters has always been the girls wearing those famed orange shorts, vivaciously stimulating the casual atmosphere of an otherwise everyday wing-joint into a worldwide eating destination.
Ortt said that his current staff, which includes the girls and the cooks, is the best that he’s ever had in his eight years with the company.
“We are very proud of the staff that we have here. The restaurant industry is a high turnover rate business, which is sometimes 120-130 percent, but our turnover rate here is less than 30 percent. I think we not only create a good atmosphere for the customers, but also the employees,” said Ortt.
More than 2,000 girls are interviewed for 45 summertime spots on the Hooters girl roster at the Ocean City store, and of the 20 local girls that are returning from last year to spearhead the off-season campaign, Ortt feels like the outlook for the year is a good one.
“A lot of people think that we are crazy for opening up this early, because anywhere you look in town, the signs say ‘see you in April’,” said Ortt, “But, we prepared for these times last year, and we controlled our costs, while producing the best product we could, so if we can get that same amount of people (estimated at 110,000) that walked through that door as last year, we are confident that we will grow our sales this year with the addition of full liquor.”
Ironically, the concept of Hooters started on a bar napkin 25 years ago in Clearwater, Fla., and now, you can get more than what you are used to getting on those same famous Hooters bar napkins, albeit for a bargain.