Hooters restaurants leased their first five locations in South Africa, but they’re buying the building outright for a sixth branch planned in Port Elizabeth.
Chanticleer Holdings, Inc., the North Carolina-based owner and operator of Hooters, is taking the company’s investment in South Africa to a whole new level with its first real estate purchase in South Africa. The freestanding building is on one of the busiest intersections in Port Elizabeth, according to CEO Mike Pruitt. Closing is expected in eight-to-10 weeks.
So why is the Hooters brand — known for chicken wings and gorgeous waitresses in size zero shorts — appealing enough to South Africans that the U.S. company is willing to buy real estate there?
“South Africans like the Americana for sure,” CEO Mike Pruitt said in an AFKInsider interview — “…and good food, cold beer and sports are very well received in South Africa. South Africans have an affinity for sports. They like places to congregate with friends in a social environment and participate in watching on lots of TVs.”
OK, so Americans and South African have something in common.
But it’s not just South Africans, Pruitt said. New Hooters restaurants are opening all over the world for many of the same reasons — it’s kinda a universal thing. Chanticleer Holdings and its subsidiaries own and operate restaurant brands in the U.S. and internationally including England, Hungary, Japan and Brazil. They joint ventured with the Hooters franchisee in Australia, and recently bought two Hooters in the U.S. The company also owns and operates American Roadside Burgers, Spoons Bar Kitchen and a majority interest in Just Fresh restaurants in the U.S.
Expect more Hooters locations in South Africa, Pruitt told AFKInsider.
“We haven’t gotten to Bloemfontein,” he said. “We think in Johannesburg we can open a few more. Certainly a few more in Cape Town. I think we can open another one in Durban. Our goal is to open 10-to-20 more a year.”
The company is also thinking of bringing Chanticleer-owned American Burger Co. and American Roadside Burger restaurants to South Africa, Pruitt told AFKInsider. “There’s plenty of opportunities to grow,” he said.
Pruitt said he came up with the Chanticleer name when he played college baseball for Coastal Carolina University in the 1980s. The mascot was the chanticleer. Many people don’t know that a chanticleer is a kind of rooster, Pruitt said. The company website has the silhouette of an orange rooster as part of its logo.
In 2011, Chanticleer Holdings led a transaction to buy privately held, Atlanta-based Hooters and the chain’s largest franchisee, Texas Wings Inc. This gave Chanticleer and its partners ownership of 161 company-owned restaurants in 16 states and a franchise network of 455 restaurants in 44 states and 29 countries, according to a report in BizJournals.
Pruitt wouldn’t have had a seat at the table except that the late Hooters chairman Robert Brooks was his friend and mentor, BizJournals reported. Before Brooks died in 2006, he gave Chanticleer a right of first refusal to any future change in ownership in exchange for a $5 million debt investment.
It guaranteed Pruitt and his then-small Charlotte firm the opportunity to match any offers for the Hooters chain.
The new Port Elizabeth Hooters will be located in the Walmer area of trendy bars, restaurants and local businesses, according to a company statement. Upscale residential areas surround the shopping district, creating a mix of business and residential — potential customers for the new restaurant. Opening is scheduled for the third quarter of 2014 following renovations.
“The Port Elizabeth property was a unique opportunity for us to acquire real estate in a growing city where we believe the Hooters restaurant will flourish,” Pruitt said in a statement.