31 May 2012

Hooters Girls are not Hicks Neutral

This post is a continuation of what will eventually be a long series of discussions of innovation in the economy, with a longer-term objective of gaining some clarity on how innovation is understood, directed and regulated in the economy. This post is also part of a argument that asserts that the discipline of economics has failed to provide an account of innovation in the economy that helps to guide 21st century policy making, and more fundamentally, that economics is simply incapable of providing such an account. A big claim, sure to raise the hackles of card carry economists. So fasten your seatbelt.

A first step is to define what I mean by “innovation.” Economics in the Schumpeterian tradition defines innovation as one component of the so-called “linear model of innovation” (see Godin, here in PDF) which lays out technological change as a process of
Invention ---> Innovation ---> Diffusion
Much has been written about this model (PDF), which I will review at another time. However it has been used in the economic literature over the past half-century, Schumpeter himself defined innovation very precisely (and did not follow the so0called linear model):
. . . any “doing things differently” in the realm of economic life - all these are instances of what we shall refer to by the term Innovation. It should be noticed at once that that concept not synonymous with “invention”. . . It is entirely immaterial whether an innovation implies scientific novelty or not. Although most innovations can be traced to some conquest in realm of either theoretical or practical knowledge, there are many which cannot. Innovation is possible without anything we should identify as invention and invention does not necessarily induce innovation, but produces of itself no economically relevant effect at all. . .
In a nutshell:
We will now define innovation more rigorously by means of the production function previously introduced. This function describes the way in which quantity of product [outputs] varies if quantities of factors [inputs] vary. If, instead of quantities of factors, we vary the form of the function, we have an innovation. ... We will simply define innovation as the setting up of a new production function. This covers the case of a new commodity, as well as those of a new form of organization. ... Innovation combines factors in a new way.
I will return to the technical aspects of the so-called “production function” (illustrated below) in a later post. For now, it is only important to understand that an innovation changes the relationship between inputs and outputs in the economy. For instance, a restaurant takes employees (labor), food, appliances (and other capital) and combines them to make meals. A change in the relationship between the various inputs and meals served would be an innovation, which would be measured by a change in the rate of productivity.
What Schumpeter called “innovation” seems to have been characterized as “technology” by many economists in the years since. For instance, Daron Acemoglu in his widely read textbook on economic growth explains:
Economists normally use the shorthand expression “technology” to capture factors other than physical and human capital that affect economic growth and performance. It is therefore important to remember that variations in technology across countries include not only differences in production techniques and in the quality of machines used in production but also disparities in productive efficiency.
Which of course brings us to Hooters girls, the hot young women in skimpy clothes who serve chicken wings and other delicacies at the US restaurant chain called Hooters. The company explains its innovative approach to the restaurant business as follows:
The first Hooters opened October 4, 1983, in Clearwater, Florida. During its history, the Hooters concept has undergone very little change. The current logo, uniform, menu and ambiance are all very similar to what existed in the original store. This lack of change is understandable given the tremendous success the Hooters concept has enjoyed. Hooters has continued to rank high amongst the industry's growth leaders. Hooters has proven successful in small-town America, major metropolitan areas and internationally. . .

The element of female sex appeal is prevalent in the restaurants, and the company believes the Hooters Girl is as socially acceptable as a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader, Sports Illustrated swimsuit model, or a Radio City Rockette. The Hooters system employs over 25,000 people - over 17,000 of which are Hooters Girls. The "nearly world famous" Hooters Girls are the cornerstone of the Hooters concept, and as part of their job, these all-American cheerleaders make promotional and charitable appearances in their respective communities. Hooters hires women who best fit the image of a Hooters Girl to work in this capacity. The chain hires both males and females to work in management and host, staff, service bar, and kitchen positions. The Hooters Girl uniform consists of orange shorts and a white tank top. Pantyhose and bras are required.
The company explains its name and innovative approach:
The chain acknowledges that many consider "Hooters" a slang term for a portion of the female anatomy. Hooters does have an owl inside its logo and uses an owl theme sufficiently to allow debate to occur over the meaning's intent. The chain enjoys and benefits from this debate. In the end, we hope Hooters means a great place to eat. . .

Sex appeal is legal and it sells. Newspapers, magazines, daytime talk shows, and local television affiliates consistently emphasize a variety of sexual topics to boost sales. Hooters marketing, emphasizing the Hooters Girl and her sex appeal, along with its commitment to quality operations continues to build and contributes to the chain's success. Hooters' business motto sums it up, "You can sell the sizzle, but you have to deliver the steak.”
So what Hooters has done, in Schumpeterian innovation terms, is to combine input factors in a new way. In this case the company has carefully selected its labor in a precise manner intended to increase the demand for its product. Presumably, the underlying assumption is that a different labor pool would result in a lower demand. So while all of the other inputs (food, appliances, etc.) could have remained the same as any other restaurant chain, the Hooters innovation led to a restaurant chain that (they claim) “has continued to rank high amongst the industry's growth leaders.”

The discipline of economics does have a terminology for the type of innovation represented by the Hooters girl – “technical change that is Hicks biased.” What "Hicks biased" technical change means is that unlike – say -- a new chicken wing fryer that can produce more wings per employee, but otherwise leaves labor and capital unchanged, some changes in the input-output relationship that result from "technology" are not independent of labor or capital (an example of the latter would be the substitution of low-sulfur Wyoming coal for West Virginia coal to reduce air pollution, but I digress).

It is of course hard to think of the Hooters girls as any sort of "biased technical change to the production function," and the tortured language begins to shed some light on the limits of economics in the context of Schumpeterian innovation.

Economics does well in providing a framework for understanding the effects on productivity of innovations that result from new chick-wing fryers, but runs into troubles in providing a framework for understanding Hooters girls as innovations. This I think, helps to explain why economics has focused on “technology” rather than “innovation” (in the original Schumpeterian sense). Make no mistake, economics is critically important, but to understand innovation -- how it happens, and crucially, how it is directed and regulated -- requires more than what economics can offer.

52 comments:

stan said...

As I teach kids when I do a Junior Achievement series, the key to being successful in business is (no different than the key to being successful in relationships) doing the best job at meeting people's needs and wants. Economics provides some tools for analyzing the process of how well needs and wants are met, but not very good ones.

How do you quantify the enjoyment of a restaurant meal, a concert, or a vacation? And as nations like the US do a better and better job meeting basic needs for food, shelter, clothing, transportation, etc., more and more of the consumer's income is spent on such purposes.

The academics have a history of getting caught up in their own metrics (see e.g. the Keynesian obsession with flows instead of stocks) and completely missing the boat. Expect that to continue.

Jessica Weinkle said...

Why the Hooters' girls innovation work for selling chicken wings but not for selling airplane seats? (ie Hooters Air)

Papa Zu said...

To me it looks like a case where the demand curves are best met with supply curves provided by Hooter's girls in this niche eatery market.

Papa Zu said...

"Why the Hooters' girls innovation work for selling chicken wings but not for selling airplane seats? (ie Hooters Air)"

It has to do with Hicks bias. There must be more hicks eating chicken wings than flying.

dave said...

No, hooters is not a case of hicks biased technical change. In general hicks neutral or hicks biased technical change is a term used when the output good stays the same. If you have two firms, and say one has either a hicks neutral or hicks biased technical improvement, then it would still produce exactly the same output good that the the other company produces. The outputs of these two firms would be exactly the same kind of good, so consumers would not prefer the output of one firm over the other.

Your hooters example is one where the company created a new product variety. Consumers find dining at hooters to be distinctly different from dining at a McDonalds and have different preferences for the two. Your description of hicks neutral or biased change would amount to McDonalds finding a way to produce exactly what it produces today, but with less input.

The kind of models you should look at are described in chapter 12-15 in Acemoglu.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-5-dave

Thanks ... but a chicken wing is a chicken wing, right?

I'd welcome your description of how the Hooters innovation is characterized in economic theory, Acemoglu is great, but I don't see it in 12-15 (or elsewhere).

Thanks!

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-5-dave

Also, I used Hooters as an example because they produce more output with the same input, akin to the McDs example. Thx

Richard S J Tol said...

-5, 6, 7- Dave, Roger
It is an empirical question whether Hooters is Hicks-neutral or not. My bet is Hicks-neutral.

I fail to see how answering that question can cast any doubt on economics.

Hooters co-produces sex and food. That is not innovative. Hooters adds consistency, branding, replication in a chain. That's not new either. The combination is new.

The innovation that is Hooters fits well in undergraduate economics.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-8-Richard

Thanks ...

1. "I fail to see how answering that question can cast any doubt on economics."

Agreed.

2. "The innovation that is Hooters fits well in undergraduate economics."

Where? Please explain.

Specifically, what part of Hooters (via economic theory) explains the productivity gain? I will readily accept an answer that includes the word "exogenous," but any answer that includes the words "endogenous" needs to be explicit.

Thanks!

Richard S J Tol said...

-9- Roger
Hooters took an existing product (sex and food) and combined it with an existing process (chain) to create something new (sex and food chain). The value lies in the reduced search costs for clients.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-10-Richard

Thanks, but you have simply offered a restatement of the definition of "innovation" -- "If, instead of quantities of factors, we vary the form of the function, we have an innovation."

That may be all that economics can offer -- a description of a process rather than an explanation. (Yes, yes, rational actors and all that, but that still does not explain innovation).

Don't get me wrong, such a description is of value, but still leaves us at the "manna from heaven" as point of departure ...

Thanks!

dave said...

If you want to understand why Hooters is doing well, you need a model in which consumers can distinguish between eating a chicken wing at Hooters or eating it at McDonalds. The easiest way to model that is to assume that consumers have a choice between two different goods, "chicken wing served by half naked waitress" and "chicken wing at self-service". What Hooters did is offer a new product to consumers, i.e. consumers had another, new option when deciding on where to go for dinner. That kind of model runs under the headline of expanding product variety and a brief introduction to that is given in 13.4 in Acemoglu. You won't be able to understand why Hooter is doing well if you use a "chicken wing is a chicken wing" type of model and simply assume that what Hooters did is find a more efficient way or producing chicken wings.

There is an incentive to invent new kind of products (like coming up with the idea for Hooter) in this kind of expanding product variety model, so it explains why something like Hooters comes into existence.

Economists wouldn't model what Hooters did as either a hicks-neutral or hicks-biased technical change over what McDonalds does. That would assume that Hooters is producing exactly the same product that McDonalds is producing, just with less inputs. The whole Hooters story just doesn't look like a technology improving story to me at all, it is a "new product invention" story, and economists use very different models for that than you seem to assume.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-12-dave

Thanks much ... two quick responses:

1. Expanding product variety is an innovation, correct?

2. Of course there is an incentive to invent ... it is "induced" perhaps. But Schumpeter distinguishes invention from innovation (and says the former is outside the remit of economics), are you collapsing these?

3. Acemoglu defines technology as "factors other than physical and human capital that affect economic growth and performance" -- certainly new product innovation fits that, no? Otherwise, what is it?

4. In a simple Solow production function Y = AKL, where does new product innovation fit in?

Part of this is me understanding what economists mean when they use certain words, so I appreciate your engagement ... Thanks!

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-13-dave

looks like that turned into 4 quick responses;-)

Unknown said...

Invention --> turning money into ideas
Innovation --> turning ideas into money

papertiger said...

Blog sweeps week?

dave said...

Yes, expanding product variety is innovation. No, I am not collapsing invention and innovation. Hooters seems a clear case of innovation, with zero invention. "Technology" is a technical term in economics, and innovation would in that sense amount to technological change. In the expanding product variety it is not manna from heaven but endogenous due to investments of firms into new products. The expanding product variety model does not have a single output good Y, but rather differentiates between different goods, they might be indexed by v. For each good there is a separate production function, whatever form that might have. The set of goods itself is endogenous and determined by the choices of the firms in the model. In fact, there is a production function for coming up with new product types. Consumers have preferences over these different goods Y_v.

Richard S J Tol said...

-11- Roger
Invention (in the Schumpeterian sense, although in this case applied to a new product/process combination) is a spark of genius. That is beyond economics, and I am not convinced psychology has much to say about it either. Economics does have something to say about the circumstances that are conducive to sparks (rather than about the sparks themselves), that is, there are models of the likelihood of invention.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-17-dave

Thanks ... I think we are back on the same page. Solow's Nobel Prize was not given for the complexity of his theory;-)

Any model/framework/theory that treats Hooters girls as "technology" is problematic from where I sit. I get what you are saying about unique production functions and production functions for product types. I just don't find such models particularly useful from the standpoint of innovation policies. This is not a criticism of economics.

Thanks!

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-18-Richard

Thanks .. the models of the likelihood of invention are horrible, to use a technical term ;-)

Innovation is best thought of as a process not to be modeled, but managed.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-16-papertiger

Ha ;-) You'll know blog sweeps week when it focuses on personalities and controversies in climate science. The economics of innovation doesn't come close, even with hot Hooters girls ;-)

Richard S J Tol said...

-18- Roger
Management requires a predictive model.

Unknown said...

Terming Hooters and innovation is more than a bit of a stretch.

"Gentleman's Clubs" have for decades offered the same 'innovation' - sex and food - during daylight hours.

What Hooters does is provide a more socially acceptable venue for the exact same dynamic.

I think Roger's point is valid: a chicken wing is a chicken wing whether served by a minimum wage fast food worker or a scantily dressed lady.

It doesn't taste better, it isn't more efficiently produced, it doesn't cost less, etc etc.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-22-Richard

We must have expectations of the future, but there is no reason why those expectations must be informed by a predictive model.

See, e.g., http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/admin/publication_files/resource-2626-2009.01.pdf

And of course our book on Prediction.

Mark B. said...

So is every new advertising/branding effort 'innovation?' Thirty years ago, I was eating in restaurants with all tall, pretty and leggy waitresses in tight pencil skirts. Does franchising make Hooters different? Or the owl? Is McDonald's arch an innovation? At some point, innovation becomes everything and nothing.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-25-Mark B.

"innovation becomes everything and nothing"

I think you get it;-)

dave said...

-19- Roger

How can it be problematic to treat Hooters as "technology", if the word "technology" is not used in its ordinary, dictionary sense but explicitly defined as a technical term to include that kind of stuff in economics??

Unknown said...

It's been twenty years since economist have been able to get their PhDs by estimating a production function (they usually estimate the cost function, but that's another story). What is important about economist's theory of production is that to look at innovation/technology/invention requires looking at how the "Frontier Production Function" is changing. The traditional KLEM estimates will indicate how the "average" is changing, but to really understand the Schumpeterian change, you have to evaluate how the "Frontier" is moving.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-27-dave

Thanks, I see two reasons:

1. The term is actually confounding within the economics literature as it is taken by some to mean "technology" as in the dictionary definition and "technology" (compare your commet at #12 -- "the whole Hooters story just doesn't look like a technology improving story to me at all") -- right now I am just asserting this point, but will soon have a follow up post soon that provides examples (based on the homework Tol assigned me last week focused on energy).

2. Since all productivity gains comes from innovation, understanding innovation is critical to managing productivity (both its positives and its negatives). To create a giant black box and call it "technology" leads us right back to the "manna from heaven." See:
http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2012/05/beyond-manna-from-heaven.html

The practical implications, and I'd cite carbon pricing as a canonical example, are that many (not all) economists think that "innovation" can simply be "induced" via a price signal. If that is not the case then poor policy can result.

Yes, I recognize that there is a lot of good work in innovation economics which looks at the correlates of innovation (R&D inputs, technology clusters, incentives/induction, etc. etc.), and newer work looks at institutions, accountability, social processes etc. Very quickly this moves outside the realm of conventional economics -- which is the point.

Thanks!

Richard S J Tol said...

-23- Unknown
Please read Lancaster (JPE, 1966).

-25- Mark
Hooters is process innovation. Before Hooters, if you visited a new town, you had to search and, perhaps embarrassingly, ask for food-cum-sex. Now, you know where to go. And the quality (or lack of it) is consistent and predictable.

A clever business model to improve consumer experience counts as innovation.

MIKE MCHENRY said...

"The practical implications, and I'd cite carbon pricing as a canonical example, are that many (not all) economists think that "innovation" can simply be "induced" via a price signal. If that is not the case then poor policy can result."

In order for this to be true a nascent technology or at least a well developed theory must exist. Its cost must be incremental to the existing technology, not multiples. Your iron law. high Carbon pricing of motor fuel in places like the EU has not resulted in a step change in propulsion for autos. Up until the latest recession total fuel consumption has been on the rise.
#2 Jessica
BTW there at least was a Hooters airline model Virgin Atlantic.

Richard S J Tol said...

-31- Mike
Please check international comparisons of fuel efficiency. Please have a comparative look at R&D portfolios of car manufacturers.

Unknown said...

@Richard Tol #36

You said: "Hooters is process innovation. Before Hooters, if you visited a new town, you had to search and, perhaps embarrassingly, ask for food-cum-sex. Now, you know where to go. And the quality (or lack of it) is consistent and predictable."

Interesting, the first time I've ever seen brand marketing as process innovation.

By this definition any and every chain store is 'innovative': you used to have to ask around to find where to buy diapers, groceries, etc etc.

MIKE MCHENRY said...

32 Richard

I'm not talking efficiency but total fuel consumed. Yes Europeans generally drive more fuel efficient cars than Americans.
I've worked with the international auto industry since 1971. Starting in the late '70's the industry tinkered with all sorts of alternate power plants. The 4 stroke internal combustion engine keeps coming out on top. There is plenty room for improvement still. The point I'm trying to make is Europe has had this huge fuel (carbon) tax and it hasn't produced a step change in the power plant. My conclusion is carbon taxes don't work. My view of many of the auto industry's R&D projects with non IC engines is window dressing to keep the politicians off their backs. That's what happened 30 years ago too.

PrajK said...

Interesting post Roger. I see a couple different ideas that have been mixed and shouldn't be. First, do economists recognize that innovation is much more than just gadgets, and do they they try to account for it? And second, does their vocabulary on innovation get sloppy at times? On the second point I agree with you (and I bet many economists would too).

But I really don't get the first claim. Including both academic economists and economic writers, I have personally heard/read Greg Ip, Kei Kozumi, and Andrew Hargadon make arguments like yours. Daniel Greenberg attacked the innovation = gadget fallacy in both "The Politics of Pure Science" and "Science, Money and Politics." Even further back, Nathan Rosenberg's early work also looks at how innovation is much more than simply gadgets.

I would say it's the natural/physical scientists/engineers who subscribe to the simplistic linear model. Economists are the ones trying to convince them otherwise. The notion that innovation and economic growth depends on much more than technology (narrowly defined) seems to me commonplace among economists.
Praj

DocMartyn said...

The invention of spectacles probably had the biggest impact human productivity than any other single invention. It basically doubled the life of a a craftsman.
Now we work more with our brains than our fingers, so what happens when we can have 45 year-old bodies and brains for forty years?
We could double the working live of a professional. Though a neglected field, if there is one area where I could see a revolutionary change in society it would be the advent of anti-ageing therapies. In real terms, only a small change in the rate our bodies/brains deteriorate can have a huge effect on working life.

Richard S J Tol said...

-33- unknown
Indeed. Technological progress, innovation in this case, is anything that improves welfare without increasing inputs.

Roddy said...

Richard Tol / Mike McHenry - surely Mike is broadly right here? He did specify 'step-change' rather than Europeans naturally choosing to drive less thirsty cars, no-one disagrees that price determines choices.

Richard is arguing (I think) that R&D, say into hybrids, IS being driven by prices, prices creating an environment in which innovation/invention is more likely to occur as it will be rewarded? Whether or not such a step-change has yet occurred. And even if GM's R&D investment into battery power is in fact just window-dressing.

Unknown said...

@ Richard Tol #37

You said: "Indeed. Technological progress, innovation in this case, is anything that improves welfare without increasing inputs. "

in response to my comment: "Interesting, the first time I've ever seen brand marketing as process innovation.

By this definition any and every chain store is 'innovative': you used to have to ask around to find where to buy diapers, groceries, etc etc. "

Indeed, you are being consistent with your own definition of innovation.

From my view, what you are describing is more correctly termed consolidation. The Wal-Mart-ization of American consumer retail has innovative roots, but once economies of scale kick in is no longer a matter of innovation.

MIKE MCHENRY said...

-38 Roddy

I would add to my cynical remark about the drivers for auto R&D that it is also used as a way to show technological prowess. Much in same way they sponsored racing. Hybrids don't move you off fossil fuel. There appear to be a niche market. Full electric will end up the same way.
It's interesting to note that all of the propulsion systems in use today (except nuclear navy) are 100+ years old. Also if you look at electricity generation it is much the same story. Even PV cells are 60 years old. There is a message here.

Sean said...

When I saw this article about Hooters girls and innovation my only thought was this is just marketing to gain a competative edge. But competition and innovation go hand in hand. The only way to build a business is to give customers better value in something they want or a product that should want but just don't realize it yet. Apple is best in this latter category. Hooters, the automobile companies and most major corporations are focused on making something a little better to influence a customer's choices. Mike McHenry's note about the basic technology for transportation and power generation has not changed much in 100 years. That may be true but competition and market changes has resulted in innovation that caused huge changes in efficiency, power, and in some cases, competitive dominance. Just take the hybrid example. It doesn't get you off of fossile fuel but it does get you farther on each gallon of fuel you used. It's viability however is sensitive to price of that fuel and to the response of other technologies like small turbocharged internal combustion engines that are almost as efficient but much cheaper and lighter. And to get more efficiency and performance takes a great deal of innovation in materials, design and new manufacturing methods. Competition and changes in the parameters our world operates in drives innovation, weather that's choosing the place we eat or the car we buy.

Unknown said...

@Sean #40

You said: "Hooters, the automobile companies and most major corporations are focused on making something a little better to influence a customer's choices."

This isn't quite correct.

A more correct statement would be "Hooters, the automobile companies, and most major corporations are focused on making money".

A better product may or may not be the way this occurs.

Within the automobile sphere, an excellent example would be the progression of automobile styles and technology in the 1960s to 1970s era: the vehicles produced in that era were neither more efficient, more safe, more economical, or more of anything except gigantic.

I'd also note that the hybrid/fuel economy example is actually a negative one for 'self induced' innovation in private industry: fuel economies have been improving largely due to CAFE style fuel economy legislation, not competition.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

Richard Tol, the prickly climate economist, has taken to Twitter to complain about this post.

He will continue to have an open invitation to explain where the post (and continuing analysis) is wrong -- all I see so far is violent agreement (e.g., #37).

Richard S J Tol said...

-43- Roger
Your post seems to argue that Hooters disproves economic theory.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-44-Richard

No, it doesn't.

It just says that economic theory does not explain innovation -- and all of the papers, texts and other materials that you have kindly shared appear to agree. Though it is the case that some economists and many policy makers have been confused into thinking otherwise.

Thanks.

Richard S J Tol said...

-45-
Now you're just projecting your preconceived notions.

For instance, you tweeted a passage of Acemoglu in which he explains that the economic analysis of public policy for innovation is not as mature as the economic analysis of fiscal policy -- which means exactly that.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-46-Richard

Twitter is not a great venue for an exchange (but it is good for slanging, I see;-) ... If you'd like to say something substantive, this would be the place.

More to come soon on Acemoglu and the other readings you asked me to look at.

Thanks.

Reiner Grundmann said...

Roger
I wonder why you are so interested in economics when trying to understand innovation. Why not look at the history and sociology of science and technology?

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-48-Reiner

A good question ... the simple answer is that economics has been the dominant theoretical framework for innovation-related policies, which have centered on technology (dictionary definition) as kit based on a linear model of innovation.

More on this to come ... Thanks!

Carrick said...

I dunna. Most of those bazookas are fake. Looks like technological innovate to me.

Mark B. said...

-50- Carrick

The technological innovation is in the bra - the bazookas are (usually) real.

SUT said...

Some waitresses sing jazz, Johnny Rockets breaks into doo-wop every hour, some bars have a comedian with a two drink min. The atmosphere is competing for *entertainment* dollars which is applied as a premium to food and drink bill, then distributed to labor, hopefully again with some of premium added to reflect what their skill, or natural endowment brought to the table.
As you've noted sex sells, but it's really more inustry specific than that - every restaurant owner staffs to the preferences of their core clientele, and specifically attractive women have always been known to fill seats.
One of the closest biz models to Hooters is Starbucks. It's really the commidified delivery of an experience that can be marketed succesffully almost anywhere, just in starbucks it's more about euro-cafe culture, whereas hooters has a more Clearwater FL culture, calling themselves 'delightfully tacky and unrefined'. (Ironically, it is Starbucks with a bare chested woman on its logo.)
So hiring attractive women and making them wear skimpy outfits is not a new idea, but building a whole brand around the idea of doing only that, and succesfully executing that in hundreds of locations. But they won't work everywhere - eg I doubt there's one in Berkley CA. Hooters doesn't thrive from a creating a preferrable experience in ALL markets; some people wouldn't be caught dead in one. The non-trivial activity that hooters hq needs to manage succesfully is enough upfront investments in new locations have to payoff. If the investor is wrong, and the community does not patron the restaurant, it must close at a loss. So, the profit hooters is making is for the million dollar, multi-year risk of selecting a new branch.
Again, the idea of the restaurant isn't innovative, but it is succesful in a competitve market over the long term? The idea, like all chains is just a template, for entrepreneurs at the community-level to match with consumer preferences. It is this process, not the genius of the concept that gives hooters a constant toehold in the US restaurant/entertainemnt market.

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