By Alana Easterling
Listen Up Lansing Staff Reporter
Hooters restaurant, once frowned upon by some, isn’t the shock it used to be.
Since opening in the spring of 1983, Hooters has caused quite a controversy. Known for its fried chicken wings, and most importantly its glamorized waitresses dressed in skimpy uniforms, Hooters came to Lansing back in 2001. When it first arrived to the Lansing area, its desired location was in Frandor Shopping Center, but that was opposed by some local residents.
“The people wouldn’t sign the ordinance to get the restaurant in the Frandor area,” said Katie Mullberry. “They were afraid that it was gonna be bad publicity for the area.
“They’re more conservative in that area I’m assuming, and they wanted to avoid the restaurant that came with so many sexual stereotypes.”
Starting out as a Hooters Girl eight years ago, Mullberry has entered competitions within the restaurant, become one of the general managers, and has been given the opportunity to manage almost every Hooters location in Michigan.
“A very small population still considers Hooters as a risqué restaurant anymore,” said Jeffery Elsworth, an associate professor at The School of Hospitality Business at Michigan State University. “They’ve sorta weathered their storm in terms of being risqué, and have been so well developed within the industry over the years.”
“They made a couple new hires in human resources that has helped rebuild their brand, steering the restaurant further and further away from the ‘breastaurant’ stereotypes.”
Elsworth said that reputation more than likely had a lot to do with why they weren’t approved for a spot in Frandor.
“That’s a bit before my time, but their reputation was a little more tarnished back then, so I’m sure that had a lot to do with it, even if it wasn’t officials,” he said. “It without a doubt could’ve been more conservative-styled residents of East Lansing who were the ones against it.”
The assistant planning manager for the city of Lansing, William Rieske, doesn’t know much about the petition being signed against Hooters being built in Frandor.
“What I do know is that Hooters, like any other restaurant, would be permitted in commercial areas. When determining location, it would be treated the same as McDonald’s or Soup Spoon Cafe in terms of them being accepted there,” he said. “Generally, if it’s permitted in the zoning district, which restaurants are, then that would be the only limitation. Not anything else.”
Hooters of Lansing is located at 172 E. Edgewood Boulevard in the same center as Celebration! Cinema. Also in that area is a Texas Roadhouse, which is according to Elsworth, “one of the busiest Texas Roadhouses in the country.”
“I’m not sure what their business is like because specifics of that sort of information isn’t easily accessible to your average civilian, but that is a very successful area,” said Elsworth. “I have to imagine that Hooters is doing very well, and the movie theatre is right there, which helps out a lot. Plus, it’s the only Hooters in town.”
Mullberry agrees with Elsworth with the restaurant having a better reputation, but says its goals and original foundation hasn’t changed.
“I think Hooters has always stayed the same,” said Mullberry. “It’s always been fun, energetic, good looking girls who want to entertain, and it’s a family restaurant. That’s never changed.
“I think that people just look at it differently now because people are changing with the times. People are less conservative and more contemporary, and the younger generation is getting older, making every one more open.”
Customers don’t seem bothered by it at all.
“I don’t think they should change anything,” said Sarah McAvee. “Me and my husband have been coming to this place every Saturday morning since it was built.
“We love the girls here, enjoy the food, and our daughter used to work here. She went away to school about six years ago, but we still come and bring the girls candy.”
Added Ed McAvee: “We’re pretty close with Bobby too [the store manager]. Old Bobby’s been running this place quite swell since he got here a few years back.
“All the girls he hires are sweethearts, the service is great, and the wings are damn good.”
Andrew Sullivan, a regular at Hooters, said, “Hooters makes you happy. Me and my boys come here every Thursday for their all-you-can-eat wings. It’s a welcoming place where we can come, eat some wings, have some beers, and watch the game.
“Plus it’s beautiful, friendly women serving me. What more can a man ask for?”
Not only do the customers enjoy the Hooters experience, but the Hooters Girls enjoy their jobs as well.
“I love working here,” said Jazmine Petteway, a Hooters Girl for two years. “I mean don’t get me wrong, it’s work, but it doesn’t always feel that way.
“The regulars are pretty cool to talk to, you’re put on a pedestal because you’re this glamorized Hooters Girl with all these expectations and standards, and the girls are great. I’m pretty cool with the cooks too.”