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By Kevin Cain

You might be tempted in thinking sexy attractive girls; scantily clad, serving beer in Pattaya that I was visiting a GoGo or Beer Bar in one of Pattaya’s less salubrious sois.

However, nothing could have been further than the truth I was actually attending the grand opening of Hooters on beach road. The famous American franchise has come to Pattaya with it’s own brand of casual dining and drinking.

The first thing that strikes you is the size of the place, Hooters Pattaya is the chain’s largest restaurant outside of the USA. It can comfortably sit over 500 diners in the daunting two tier establishment. But for the life of me I can never understand restaurant / bar designers preoccupation of building split level flooring everywhere, people were continually tripping over and the place was packed.

I had an interview with Mr Mike Ward the GM of Hooters before the event took place. Mike explained he had 25 years’ experience in the F&B world and the opening of this restaurant had been his most challenging so far. Perhaps those of us who live in the city can sympathize with his plight.

The restaurant is owned by Destination Resorts who run the Hooters franchise across Southeast Asia. Their aim is to open 30 outlets across the region in the next six years and eight of them will be here in Thailand. Already Bangkok and Phuket are up and running with Pattaya being the third.

I asked Mike about the brand’s most famous attribute which of course are the Hooters Girls and how this would be different in Thailand. He explained that the waitresses are a vital ingredient to the success of the brand worldwide, he continued to stress that the Hooters Girls are extremely well paid, over 35,000 THB a month. “It is definitely a career, and the girls have a full 2-4 weeks training”

It is a fact, that often Hooters Girls go on to top model and fashion jobs after they move on from the company. And that they are also active in any charity and community activities the brand engages with. If the girls progress on to management then they have to undertake a five week course at Hooter Inc. in the USA. Worldwide 30% of Hooters management staff are female.

There were some rumours emanating back from Hooters in Bangkok that there had been troubles with service and length of time waiting for food to be delivered. Mike assured me that Hooters operates an advanced service and customer satisfaction system called Hoot-Sac. At the bottom of every bill is a customer response code to go on line and complete a customer satisfaction form which is sent direct to America.

Sampling some of the food it is fair to say that for people who love the famous wings and burgers that Hooters are famous for will not be disappointed, although my Thai colleagues did not seem to agree. There are five Thai dishes on the menu so hopefully that will cater for local demands.

The restaurant is modern and well appointed, it has a typical American diner appeal that is consistent with the global brand but also an edge to it of modernity. There are enough screens dotted around to show every sport and every evening a live DJ plays music till 4am.

This is where Hooters Pattaya might have it’s most success. As a late night music venue I can see it being a roaring hit, the location is perfect and the ambiance just right. However, whether the restaurant can attract the daytime dining trade with so much cheaper competition we will have to see.

I do not know if their real target market is quite as easily identifiable as say Bangkok with the Thai High So crowd and the huge wealthy expat working segment. Pattaya is more complicated with large Chinese touring parties, retired expats and budget tourists. Having said that the growth of Bangkok weekend residents is increasing rapidly.

I am glad that such an enterprise has opened it’s doors in Pattaya and I sincerely hope it attracts more such ventures. It helps to elevate the status of the city from it’s less than glamorous reputation.

In conclusion there is no doubt that this is a top class venue in a perfect location, with one of the most famous brands in casual dining. Whether Pattaya is the correct place for such a venture time will tell. I sincerely wish Mike and his staff good luck and hope they succeed in their enterprise, it will definitely be for the benefit of the city having such a famous brand as part of the entertainment scene.