"All right, let's go see some titties."
That was, word for word, what one of my buddies said as I picked him up to grab dinner at our local Hooters in West Covina, California. It immediately reminded me what the main attraction has been for the restaurant, since, well, forever.
I hadn't been to Hooters since 2007 when my friend held a birthday party there. I was 18, full of teenage hormones, and my immature mind was not properly equipped to process the amount of chest and booty cleavage around me. Thankfully, I was able to control the eggplant emoji in my pants, and didn't have to suffer through an embarrassing adolescent moment.
However, the world has changed A LOT since 2007, so I was curious if Hooters had changed at all, or if it's still the stereotypical boob joke that Adam Sandler loved wielding in his '90s movies.
It's 2018, and women are rightfully wielding their voices against sexual misconduct and harassment, especially in the restaurant industry. With famous names like Mario Batali, John Besh, and Ken Friedman linked to such behavior, the food world has been shaken up, opening up conversations about sexual harassment that were apparently swept under the rug for a long time.
The idea of wanting to eat at a restaurant where you can drink beer, watch sports, and ogle at women sounds like it is tailor made for 64 Jezebel think pieces on feminism. Yet in an age where you'd think a place like Hooters would be getting killed in the public eye, it looks like it is still hanging on to its booby-swinging values, for better or worse.
We walked in, and the way the hostess looked at my friends and I almost felt like we were being scouted. Like, she could read us, and selected the perfect waitress for us, specifically. I don't know exactly what the benefit to that would be, but all three of us noticed it, as the hostess called out for "Sarah" (name changed for story) to come help us to our table.
"Sarah" literally sat down with us to take our order, a move that I'm sure is very much a Hooters thing, as the waitresses at Buffalo Wild Wings, TGIFriday's, and well, anywhere else, have always just stood when helping us.
It was nice that she wasn't overly cheery, and didn't try too hard to get our attention like some of the other waitresses I observed in there. Then I thought, was that part of the initial scouting process? Did the hostess up front see three dudes in their late 20s, not dressed in sports jerseys, with fairly calm demeanors and think, "All right, let's give them Sarah"?
It was a Friday night, 8 p.m., and the Lakers were playing the Pacers. You'd think a sports bar in Southern California would be jam-packed for a Laker game at that time, but it was a little more than half-full, with maybe 50 patrons occupying the spacious dining room.
The West Covina Hooters we went to was particularly interesting, as it went through a disgusting scandal in the past where a manager was caught filming women during their interviews back in 2004. Then manager Juan Aponte, made female applicants put on the Hooters uniform as part of the interview process, and even though he stepped out, many of the women suspected that they were being recorded while undressing. After the women reached out to police, Aponte's personal laptops were seized, and officials found 180 audio and video recordings from 82 different women who were interviewed.
This Hooters is like a haunted house of sexual harassment. You walk in like an unsuspecting character in a horror film, not knowing that some crazy shit went down there many years ago.
With that said, I'm kind of glad that I was able to look around and see families, friends and kids just hanging out. For some reason, I expected to walk into a Mario Batali-like (allegedly) situation: A barnyard filled with perverted old dudes ass-grabbing, and chasing women around like in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland.
The extent of staring was just guys doing the "quickly look down at her butt, then back up, and repeat" move while being seated. There was a dude strategically walking behind his girlfriend so she couldn't see the intense staring he was doing while the waitress navigated them around the other tables. Other than that, it was just the occasional glance.
Maybe the new generation is growing and being less perverted, at least outwardly.
Popular pornographic site, PornHub, conducted one of the most important studies of 2017, finding that millennials between the age of 18-24 were 19 percent less likely to search for breast-related porn.
Where does that leave 'breastaurants' of the future? Well, the number of Hooters locations have dropped by 7 percent between 2012-2016, with dormant sales, which doesn't look good for the brand.
Even Hooters itself knows they have a negative image.
Hooters CEO Terry Marks said the 'breastaurant' was going to focus on delivery and pickup this 2018, catering to the people who "wouldn’t step foot in our restaurants, but they want our product.”
No, the deliveries are not done by Hooters girls, it's just regular ol' UberEats.
With the polarizing stigma still attached to the sports bar after all these years, how is Hooters still around?
Well, that leads me to one particular customer that caught my attention during our dinner. An elderly man at the main bar area, who at his age, might have a lot of declining physical abilities, yet his vision was good enough to stare down and eye-fuck every single waitress that crossed his path. With zero fucks given, this older man could have broken his neck with the rubbernecking he was doing.
It made me think that while every guy in there was distracted by the scantily-clad waitresses, maybe the blatant eye-fucking is being left behind with an older generation. Maybe we can visually admire these women without thinking, "She's being nice to me, she obviously wants more."
Maybe the age where men...wait, what is he doing? Damn it. My friend just left the Hooters waitress his number. All it took was her saying, "I'll definitely remember you."