5 Questions With Larry Linen of HOA Brands

The COO of HOA Brands (parent of Hooters and Hoots Wings) shares secrets to having industry staying power.

5Qs Larry Linen 2024BWoutline

1 . LAST YEAR, HOOTERS CELEBRATED 40 YEARS. HOW DO YOU HELP KEEP THE BRAND AGILE AND RELEVANT?
My biggest business strategy is to work by trial and error. If you don’t try things, you don’t know whether you’ll be successful or not. I would rather try and fail than never try and not know. In that vein, I think it’s important to embrace change. We have a lot of tradition within the Hooters brand, and we’re constantly doing a balancing act of staying relevant while remaining true to our core values. For example, we used to have pretty strict policies against tattoos and jewelry. But I helped update the policies to reflect changing societal views. Tattoos and jewelry don’t take away from the personality and the unique service provided by our staff. In the kitchen, we’re paying attention to reducing our carbon footprint, installing energy-saving fryers and exhaust hoods.

 

2. WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE SOMEONE STARTING OUT IN FOODSERVICE?
Working in foodservice gives people the opportunity to grow, and there are plenty of people here who didn’t take what you might call a traditional path. In my case, I was bartending, trying to figure out my next move, when I was recruited by Hooters to be a manager-in-training. Twenty-seven years later, I’m an executive here. Our CEO started out as a dishwasher. Our chief people officer started as a Hooters Girl. It’s not an easy industry to work in, it’s long hours and hard work, but if you do the right thing for the right reason, you will get ahead. Don’t worry about accolades, or if the boss is looking, just work on being excellent at your job.

 

3. I HEAR THERE IS NO MICROWAVE IN HOOTERS’ KITCHENS; WHY IS THAT?
In my experience, people use the microwave as a crutch. It’s usually used to heat something up that went out wrong. I’d rather go out and talk to the guest, tell them we’re sorry and we’re making them something new, and send out an appetizer while they wait. We keep our kitchens simple, just flattops, stovetops, fryers and refrigeration. That’s all you need for great food.

 

4. WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION?
I get some of my best ideas from the team members on the front line. Their input is invaluable to the brand and also helps them feel a part of operations. For example, I see cooks making their own menu items all the time. So we decided to make it formal and run a contest where kitchen team members could create a new menu item, adding only one additional ingredient to what is already in our kitchen. We chose four items to run as a limited time offer with the winning team member’s picture in the menu, and one item is now a permanent addition to the menu.

 

5. WHAT EXCITES YOU MOST ABOUT THE FUTURE OF THE FOODSERVICE INDUSTRY?
I’m in awe of the technological innovations that improve the customer experience. You can order online and the next time just click that same order to make things fast and easy, or the app will suggest new items to try based on the customer’s preferences. I’m excited to see what comes next as these things continue to improve.

 

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