Hooters restaurant chain dances its way into Germany
NEUNKIRCHEN, Germany — As ZZ Top’s song “Tush” blasted from the speakers, girls rushed to the center of the restaurant to hone their newly learned moves.
“All right, are you ready to dance?” the American instructor shouted.
The rookie waitresses standing among the empty tables instantly began clapping and dancing, bouncing up and down in their tight, orange shorts and low-cut, cleavage-revealing tank tops.
The only thing missing from Germany’s new Hooters restaurant was an audience of customers ogling the routine as they throw back American burgers, wings and cold beer.
That probably won’t be a problem this weekend, when Hooters’ first restaurant in Germany opens for business Friday.
Managers believe there will be a long line of both Germans from area communities and Americans from nearby U.S. military bases coming for the waitresses — and, ummm, the food. On Tuesday, construction workers put the finishing touches on the outside of the franchise chain as waitresses trained for the big day.
“This Hooters is going to do very well,” said Michael Renning, who works for a German firm that is marketing the opening of the restaurant. “We’re expecting a lot of people for the first day.”
The restaurant will be the first of six to open in Germany and Luxembourg and one of more than two dozen to open outside of the United States.
There is nothing like it in Germany, and while some people might think Hooters would be a big risk, the owners are betting that the Atlanta-based chain will do just as well west of the Rhine River as it has done across the States.
The restaurants offer chicken wings, ribs and burgers, but people often don’t go for the food. They come for the scantily clad waitresses who occasionally dance between tables, twist their hips in a hula hoop and flirt with the customers.
The staff will be German, but this week Hooters waitresses from the U.S. came to train the new recruits. Most of the waitresses come from area villages and also speak English.
The restaurant, which is about a 25-minute drive from Ramstein Air Base, is set in a former steel plant that closed in the 1980s and has been transformed into an entertainment district.
The inside of the restaurant has all the trappings of the famous beach bar that started in South Florida and has now spread across the globe. It has the same casual decor, lacquered wood tables and menu. The German accent of the waitresses is the only glaring difference.
Michelle Moya of Austin, Texas, who has worked at Hooters for eight years, said the German women have come along. She was helping train the German ladies to be perfect Hooters girls.
“They’re naturals,” she said.
Natalie Kalf, a 24-year-old student studying chemistry in Saarbrücken, said she felt a little uncomfortable wearing the Hooters uniform at first, but she has gotten used to it.
“For me it’s unusual,” she said. “I’ve never seen it before in Germany … but now it’s OK.”
The restaurant is hoping to offer a shuttle service from Ramstein Air Base to the restaurant for the opening, but the details have not been finalized.