OCEAN CITY — With a successful first summer under its belt, Hooters in West Ocean City plans to operate through the fall and winter.
While the north Ocean City and Boardwalk operations shut down in the fall, the third franchise in West Ocean City off Route 50 has grander designs with its eye on staying open 12 months of the year.
“The first summer was good,” said Matt Ortt, Director of Operations.
General Manager Jason Ortt explained that the atmosphere in West Ocean City makes it feasible to keep the location open year-round, something not done with the Ocean City restaurants, which he acknowledged are more seasonal.
Outside of the resort, business is usually less hectic but steadier, according to Matt Ortt. Even though they’ve only been open since June, he has noticed a healthy crowd of local regulars beginning to form.
“Local people are what will keep us alive during the offseason…we get to see a lot of the same faces every day,” said Matt Ortt.
There are several reasons for that popularity, he continued, but most revolve around some unique traits of the business.
“Here we focus on homemade stuff,” said Jason Ortt, who added that the restaurant also has a unique raw bar.
The menu has special items that most people wouldn’t expect to find in a franchise restaurant. For example, it features a French onion soup infused with beer from Berlin’s own Burley Oak microbrewery. Home-style food like hot roast beef and oven roasted chicken are also prominent.
Hooters also offers traditional bar food like burgers and wings, and the brothers promised that anyone looking for a great sports bar won’t be disappointed. As far as team loyalty goes, the Ortts have taken an all-are-welcome approach and feature football games from any team customers want to watch.
“We’re an NFL bar,” said Jason Ortt.
But at the same time the brothers stressed that Hooters is more than just a bar. While many probably think of orange shorts and beautiful waitresses when picturing Hooters, the Ortts said that the restaurant is both family-friendly and active in the community.
The West Ocean City location contains a wall of photographs and memorabilia dedicated to local fire departments while the restaurant itself has participated in several charity drives including a recent effort for Children’s House by the Sea. As for the atmosphere, Matt Ortt called the West Ocean City Hooters, “very kid friendly” with meal specials and an arcade.
Jason Ortt agreed that Hooters has something for everyone, from the sports fan to the family to the late-night bar hopper.
“We’re very open to suggestions … you’ve got to cater to everybody,” he said.
Heading into the winter season, both Jason and Matt Ortt expect that local interest will be more than enough to hold the restaurant over through the slow months. One of the big things the brothers are hoping for is to host private gatherings.
“We have a lot of private parties and holiday parties,” said Matt Ortt, adding that Hooter’s kitchen can be flexible with its menu during a special event.
A final new direction that the brothers are taking with Hooters is the inclusion of live bands a few times a week, unusual for many franchised restaurants.
With a total of three Hooters restaurants in the area, Matt and Jason Ortt don’t expect that they will be opening a fourth in the near future. They might, however, branch off into an original non-franchised eatery one day though nothing is set in stone yet.