When Hooters unveiled a change to its infamous Hooters Girl uniform this month, rolling out new underwear-like shorts, the backlash was immediate, with numerous female employees sharing their concerns on platforms such as TikTok.
The viral videos, which included comparisons between the new shorts and the old ones, were enough to convince the company to reverse its decision, with Hooters releasing a statement in which it clarified that Hooters Girls would be allowed to choose between the two versions of the shorts.
While the issue was resolved, largely because of those who spoke out against the change on TikTok, the incident piqued an interest in the restaurant chain and the roles of its employees.
According to Hooters, Hooters Girls - the term the company uses to refer to its waitresses and bartenders - are “an international icon and proud ambassadors of the Hooters brand,” while the career portion of the website notes that “being a Hooters Girl is an honour bestowed upon only the most entertaining, goal oriented, glamorous and charismatic women”.
To find out what it actually means to work at Hooters, we spoke to two current Hooters Girls, who discussed everything from the job interviews to the strict guidelines that staff are required to follow.
According to Hooters, in addition to women who are “charismatic” and “entertaining,” an important requirement for the role of Hooters Girl is looks, as these employees are “identified by [their] glamorous styled hair, camera ready make-up, and fit body”.
Speaking to The Independent, Lexi, a 23-year-old Hooters Girl who works at one of the restaurant’s Georgia locations, said that the process of applying began by filling out an online application and “uploading a picture of yourself”.
Lexi was then asked to come into the restaurant for an in-person interview, during which she was instructed to try on the Hooters uniform, which includes a white tank top emblazoned with Hooters, short orange shorts, pantyhose, sneakers, white socks, and makeup.
“I did try on the uniform, which I didn’t know was part of the interview,” she said, adding that she “never got the vibe that they were looking for big boobs”.
However, according to a 19-year-old Hooters Girl who would only speak to The Independent on the condition of complete anonymity, as she noted that “Hooters has a policy that we aren’t allowed to speak with media on behalf of Hooters,” the company does “look for a certain type of woman” during the interview and hiring process.
“The company looks for a certain type of woman. The job application requires you to attach a picture of yourself and they judge you off your looks more than anything,” the woman, who we will refer to as Megan, told us, adding that one of the biggest factors is weight, as “the uniform literally only goes up to a medium size and if you gain weight they can literally fire you just because”.
She confirmed, however, that Hooters does not discriminate based on breast size or “bum size,” which she said “surprised” her.
Once a woman is hired by the company, they are required to follow a number of strict guidelines that dictate everything from their hair styles to what they post on social media.
“Some rules we have to follow [include] coming photo ready,” Lexi said. “Which basically means having your hair and makeup done and being ready to take pictures with customers. They love taking pictures. There’s also a social media policy which simply states what we can/cannot post in our uniforms.”
According to Megan, Hooters Girls are required to wear makeup, which she said is “mandatory,” but that it can only be applied in a natural style.
“We are told our nails can only be French tip or certain colours, we aren’t allowed to have any hair colours other than natural ones,” she continued. “Even certain hairstyles we can’t wear [and we can’t] have anything cute in our hair like accessories and the hair tie must match our hair colour.”
The appearance requirements also extend to tattoos and piercings, with Megan explaining that Hooters Girls can’t wear any jewellery “other than two rings, one on each hand,” and that they cannot have any facial piercings. Hooters’ tattoo guidelines, which previously prohibited all tattoos from being shown, have recently been relaxed, according to Megan. However, she said that neck and face tattoos are still not allowed.
Megan also noted that some locations “even have uniform checks every shift before you get to work and if there is the slightest rip in your tights you have to buy new ones, which are $5 a pair”.
When it comes to social media guidelines, the 19-year-old, who has been working at Hooters since the beginning of 2021, said that the company prohibits Hooters Girls from posting to social media in their uniforms if a song with profanities is playing, nor are they allowed to curse themselves.
“Even during Halloween we have rules for costumes, we can’t wear scary makeup, it has to be pretty,” she said.
However, according to Lexi, the consequences for breaking any of the rules typically aren’t severe. “If you break rules you just have a conversation with the manager and they see fit how to handle the situation,” she said.
Apart from ensuring that they are “captivating to all who visit Hooters restaurants,” and follow the various rules, a career as a Hooters Girl also means dealing with harassment or “weird” customers on a frequent basis, the women told us.
In response to a question about her experience working at Hooters, Lexi noted that employees just “have to be careful and watch out for weird customers”. When we asked her to elaborate on the protocol in place for dealing with customers behaving inappropriately, she told us that she is “not too sure exactly what the protocol is but normally we just tell our manager and they handle it for us”.
Megan, too, described harassment from customers, telling us that: “When it comes to harassment it does happen a lot because certain men think they can treat you a certain way just based on your uniform.”
As for how these situations are handled, Megan said that she typically tries to explain to the customer why their behaviour “is not okay in a nice way”. According to Megan, “some men stop” at that point and “everything continues fine,” while there have been other times where male customers have made her “very uncomfortable to the point I literally stop serving them and have my managers deal with them”.
“It’s not just sexual harassment, there’s also regular harassment,” she said, adding that she has been told by “several men” that she is “too skinny and need to eat,” while “some men pick and choose girls based off their race or looks or body type”.
According to Megan, the harassment is typically worse on Friday, when the Hooters Girls are required to wear bow ties for “casual Friday”.
“At this point they might as well give us bunny ears and make us Playboy Bunnies because that’s what it looks like and customers harass us more over the ties, comparing us to Playmates,” Megan said. “You get harassed even more when wearing them.”
However, Megan also noted that she is unaware of a protocol, if any, for handling inappropriate customers.
As for the benefits of working at Hooters, both women acknowledged that the money made in tips can make the job worthwhile.
According to Lexi, she decided to work at Hooters because she needed a way to make “quick money” to pay off her student loans, and she wanted to become a Hooters Calendar Girl after seeing her cousin do the same.
“My cousin was a Hooters Girl and I saw all the opportunities Hooters opened up for her,” she explained.
In a single night, Lexi can make $300 in tips working at Hooters, which she said was more than she ever made when she worked at Applebees.
According to Megan, the money employees make at Hooters, which recently became a point of contention after a Hooters employee discussed the wages in a viral TikTok, is only good because of the tips.
“The pay at Hooters is good only in tip money,” the 19-year-old said, adding that the company only pays employees at her location $2.13 an hour, which she said is “way under minimum wage”.
The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, however, tipped employees, such as servers and bartenders, who receive at least $30 per month in tips, can be paid as low as $2.13 per hour, according to the US Department of Labor.
On a slow night Megan said she can make $80, while some nights she can make $300. She did note, however, that the issue of tips isn’t specific to Hooters, as a significant portion of the service industry relies on tipping.
According to Megan, Hooters does offer benefits such as tuition reimbursement and health insurance to employees who have worked there for more than a year.
As for whether she would recommend a job at the restaurant chain, she told us: “If you’re okay with all the controlling rules and sexual harassment from customers, then yes.”
Lexi, however, told us that she loves working at Hooters and has even recommended the job to her younger sister. In addition to opening up opportunities for her, she said that being a Hooters Girl can be “a confidence boost”.
“The managers are very chill and cool. The only thing I don’t like is how easy drama can start working with a bunch of girls but even then I just stay to myself,” she said.
The Independent has contacted Hooters for comment.
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies