Hooters girls

By Todd Balazovic (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-12-11 10:23

Hooters girls

"It's showtime girls!" a waitress shouts across the dining room at Hooters, an American-born franchise restaurant in Beijing.

The chatter of patrons is soon overcome by the thick thumping bass of a dance song as nine waitresses gather and form in a line in front of the bar.

In unison the group starts dancing. Waving their hands in the air, the waitress-dancers spin around to Gloria Estefan's "Conga", and as the song instructs, begin shaking their bodies.

Chinese and expats, men and women, pause from their meals and watch the spectacle.

Then, just as quickly as it started, the song ends to brief applause and the girls go back to serving food and drinks.

Breaking from the group of dancers and returning to her waitress work is Zhang Yizhi, or Cookie, a 23-year-old Hooters girl whose quirky English name was given by her secondary school teacher.

Hooters girls

Cookie has been working at Hooters since it opened up in September 2007. She was among the first of Beijing's Hooters girls, an Eastern version of the iconic American waitresses known for their provocative dress and lively service.

Though the figure-hugging orange short shorts and tight white tank top are a franchise standard for the Atlanta-based Hooters, which now has 500 restaurants worldwide, it was something Cookie said she had to get used to amid the more conservative culture of Beijing women.

"You know, Chinese girls are shy. At first I was really nervous and shy when wearing the uniform," she said. "But now it makes me feel beautiful."

Judging from rubbernecking restaurant-goers, many of the patrons agree.

When the Beijing native first started working at Hooters, she was attending Beijing University of Chemical Technology (BUCT) majoring in English.

She said she applied for the job as a way to earn a little extra cash to help pay her school fees.

In addition to the salary and tips, she found it was a perfect opportunity to practice her English.

"After a semester of working here, I noticed a big difference between how well I could speak compared with my classmates," she said, flashing her ever-present smile.

Cookie recently graduated from BUCT and decided, for the time being, to stay with Beijing Hooters. "I just switched to full time," she said with pride.

Hooters girls

Her story is a common one among the girls working at Hooters. Most are Beijing university students working to help pay for school and also a way to practice their English, said restaurant manager Ken Wu.

He said authentic American food attracts many of the Chinese patrons, but the girls are what the restaurant is best known for. "The Hooters girls are the soul of this restaurant," said Wu.

In addition to its distinctive approach to providing food and entertainment, the Beijing Hooters, located near the North gate of the Worker's Stadium, aims to bring an authentic American sports bar to the capital city, said Wu.

In its two years of operation, the Beijing franchise has managed to wrangle a comfortable slice of the market in the competitive bar and restaurant scene, something Wu attributes to a combination of authentic American and Chinese cuisine and Western hospitality.

"The Chinese cuisine was added to the menu because we really try to suit Chinese tastes," he said.

"The food and beverage business in Beijing is very tough, but we've survived," Wu said motioning to the restaurant staff. "Because - hey we're still here."

Add: No 1 China Red street, Worker's Stadium East road, Chaoyang district

Tel: 65858787