In many ways, Hooters seems like a concept that would work extremely well in Japan. This is, after all, a nation that itself has produced some startling innovations in breast-related dining, such as the busty waitress Akihabara ramen joint and the “breast slash” cafe.
And sure enough, the chain has opened a total of seven locations in Japan since arriving in the country in 2005. However, Japanese fans of the Hooters chain have had their spirits bouncing up and down this week, starting with the development that on March 25, HJ, the company that manages Hooters’ Japanese restaurants, filed for bankruptcy protection from its creditors in Tokyo District Court under Japan’s Civil Rehabilitation Law.
Then, just a day later, Hooters enthusiastically announced that the finalists for the Miss Hooters Japan Contest 2019 have been chosen. Pared down from a pool of 51 entrants, the 15 finalists, selected from among the chain’s waitstaff, will appear at a special event in Tokyo Shinjuku to crown the winner of the contest’s ninth iteration, who will then travel to the U.S. in June to compete in the Miss hooters World Tournament.
▼ A few of this year’s finalists
The Miss Hooters Japan finals will take place at the chain’s Tokyo Shinjuku Nishiguchi branch on April 15, with the doors opening at 6 p.m. and the festivities getting underway an hour later. Ticket prices range from 5,000 yen for a spot in the standing area, while the top-of-the-line SS Ticket, for 14,000 yen, gets you a spot with a superior view of the contest stage, where the contestants will appear in no less than three outfits: their Hooters uniform, a swimsuit, and a costume of their own choosing. The SS Ticket also gets you a 2,500-yen food/drink voucher and both a T-shirt autographed by the 15 finalists as well as a mini photo session with them.
Meanwhile, HJ itself will be working within the framework of the Civil Rehabilitation Law to restructure its outstanding bad debt. The company owes an estimated 560 million yen to a total of 56 creditors.
Observers spotted a sign of trouble at the start of the year when Hooters’ Fukuoka branch closed down, and analysts say sales for Hooters branches in Japan have sagged in recent years, though they haven’t offered any theories as to why. Perhaps, like the busty ramen and breast slash restaurants mentioned above, Japan prefers the pop-up or limited-time model for its overtly sexy dining establishments, and Hooters hasn’t been getting the sort of repeat business it does in other countries. It could also be that while Japan’s countless hostess bars prove there’s a robust market for alcohol and snacks being served by young women in revealing outfits, Japanese customers prefer a quieter, more intimate atmosphere to the boisterous vibe at Hooters. Or maybe it’s neither of those, and Japan’s preexisting tebasaki chicken wing culinary tradition has conditioned local palates to reject Hooters’ hot sauce-slathered menu stars.
However, just because Hooters Japan is declaring bankruptcy doesn’t mean the chain is going out of business. HJ has promised that all six current Hooters Japan locations (four in Tokyo and one each in Osaka and Nagoya) will remain in operation.
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