Hooters sets sights on State College

A newly designed Hooters restaurant in Slidell, La.
A newly designed Hooters restaurant in Slidell, La. Photo provided

Hooters is coming in hot.

It just needs a franchisee and a place to stay.

Hooters, the Atlanta-based sports bar chain that once had a restaurant in State College, wants to come back to town. It’s also interested in expanding into Altoona, Harrisburg, Lancaster and farther away in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio.

There is a nearly 480-mile east to west gap, from Philadelphia to Dayton, Ohio, where there isn’t a single Hooters unless you detour south. It’s one of the largest regions in the United States without a Hooters.

A State College Hooters, company senior vice president of global development Mark Whittle said, could be up and running in 10 months if the right franchisee with a location in mind stepped up to the plate.

A franchisee would ideally open three to five restaurants in the region and possibly up to 10.

“There are a lot of little markets in central Pennsylvania, western Pennsylvania and east Ohio we would do well in,” Whittle said. “We had another franchisee tied into some stores and a lot of other ventures, and with that he had some challenges. It’s not that they didn’t do well. They just had a conglomerate of other businesses to handle.”

A new franchisee would have to meet the company’s requirements.

Financial standards include a minimum net worth of $2.5 million, a minimum liquidity of $1.5 million, a $75,000 franchising fee and a 20-year agreement term with two 10-year renewals. Franchisee candidates should also have at least five years of multi-unit restaurant experience or have an operational partner that does.

A return to Happy Valley would happen on the heels of Hooters rolling out its revamped design.

“We worked on a prototype in 2012, and the first new restaurant built under the new design was in Slidell, La.,” Whittle said. “All of our new ones have been tailored to that design.”

The chain’s prototype is about 6,400 square feet, but can be modified for pre-existing buildings in spaces between about 5,000 to 7,000 square feet. The typical Hooters seats sits about 240 and employs 50 to 60 people.

The chain’s recent look into State College convinced officials to announce their interest in coming back.

“It’d absolutely be a great market,” Whittle said. “I’ve been there, and I know it well. I’ve also got a site modeling tool, which reinforced for us it’d be good for us to be there.”

Those interested in franchising should go to