The Truth About Hooters' Famous Wings

Hooters may arguably be the most famous of the so-called "breastaurants," but believe it or not, the one thing that made the chain famous and drove the expansion of the restaurant from coast to coast doesn't happen to come wrapped in a pair of skintight bright orange booty shorts. While the revealing uniform with the plunging neckline may have grabbed all of the headlines when the chain was originally started in 1983, it's Hooters' signature chicken wings that have transformed the restaurant that started as a bit of a goof into a national institution.

Wings are serious business at Hooters, a chain otherwise known for its irreverence and lighthearted approach to family dining. While the uniforms may be silly, the chicken is anything but: Hooters devotes an enormous part of its menu to both classic wings and boneless versions, all drenched in their signature sauces. Though the chicken wing was once considered a throwaway scrap unfit for use in anything other than stocks and sauces, it's become so much more. Let's take a look at what sets the deep-fried wings at Hooters apart from their competitors.

They're heavy on the breading

Unlike the wings originally dreamed up at the legendary Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York, the most widely-accepted birthplace of the Buffalo wing, the wings at Hooters receive a healthy dose of seasoned breading before getting dunked in the deep fryers and bubbled into golden-brown perfection. It's a controversial choice; some wing aficionados swear that extra breading interferes with skin crispiness, while breading-devotees appreciate the extra crunch and sauce adhesion that it seems to provide. Breading also tends to beef up the perceived size of the wing, and tricks your eye into thinking you're being served a meatier, heartier piece of chicken.

Hooters clearly falls on the "pro-breading" side of this very important discussion; the chain even sells a ready-to-use "Wing Breading" mixture on its website. Buffalo wing traditionalists need not fret about how to navigate a night out at Hooters, however; any wing on the menu can be ordered "naked" style, which means the wings are fried as naked as the day they were born before getting slathered in one of the restaurant's signature sauces.

They're available stuffed with other foods

Hooters seems to understand one of the core precepts of competing in the quick-service world of endlessly over-the-top limited time offerings, where restaurant chains feel the need to constantly outdo each other in their search for Instagrammable viral taste sensations. Unconfined by the hard limits of science, morality, and the natural world, Hooters recently introduced one of their most nightmarishly Cronenbergian creations yet: The stuffed wing.

"Oh, sure," we can hear you saying, "They probably just figured out a way to stuff wings with melted cheese, or chopped up jalapeños... big deal." But to you, we say, "nay." Figuring out how to take a part of the chicken that isn't blessed with a natural cavity of its own and cram fistfuls of even more fattening food into it was only the beginning. Hooters pushed the concept to gut-punishing new levels, with the introduction of "Cajun Jamabalaya" and "Zesty Chorizo" variations of its game-changing invention.

After a successful test run in Fort Meyers, Florida in 2018, Hooters' new stuffed wings began a rollout to the national menu in 2019 (though they're only available at participating locations). So if you've always dreamed of biting into a crispy wing and having grains of boiling-hot sausagy rice explode all over your chin, your day has (finally!) arrived.

Staff is probably discouraged from eating them

For some, a waitress position at Hooters sounds pretty easy. Squeeze yourself into a pair of orange shorts, learn the proper way to slouch your tube socks, bat your eyelashes, learn to draw that owl, and watch the tips roll in, right? Not to mention, what's better than unlimited access to free wings?

We don't want to put a damper on your life goals, but the reality is probably different than your expectations, in at least a few of those key areas. Many restaurants avoid anti-discrimination lawsuits by hiring servers as "entertainers" or "actors," as opposed to waitstaff. This allows them to tightly control the appearance of staff, from hairstyles to uniform to makeup to even body weight. And you'd better believe that Hooters holds these reins pretty tightly.

"At Hooters, we did weight pictures," a former Hooters server told Cracked. "They weigh you, take pictures of you. And if they notice a change in your physique — it doesn't matter if it's five pounds or 20 pounds — you have 30 days to lose it, or you're fired." So, we're guessing a dozen wings dipped in a heavy coating of ranch are probably off the table.

They've been defined as their own competitive eating category

Baseball season? Meh. The Super Bowl? We guess the commercials are okay. But when it comes to the pure, unadulterated adrenaline of watching world-class athletes at the top of their game, pitted head-to-head against their rivals in a carefully choreographed battle royale, there's no sport we love quite as much as competitive eating. Sure, some people get a thrill out of seeing 400 pound gladiators on the gridiron crashing into each other head first. But we'll take a 135 pound guy downing 74 soggy water-dunked hot dogs in the blistering Brooklyn summer sun any day.

Sweet corn. Mutton. Tacos. Moon Pies. Crawfish. Tamales. If you can eat it, then chances are, there's a contest that will allow you to eat it to excess, and potentially win a boatload of cash at the same time. And just like these other categories of gastronomic excess, there's even a "Hooters Worldwide Wing Eating" category for competitors to go head-to-head (and belly-to-belly) against other top "athletes" in the field. In 2017, upstart Geoffrey Esper caused a major upset when he unseated defending champion Matt Stonie by eating 250(!) of Hooters' famous wings in just 10 minutes, earning a cash prize of $8,500 and worldwide glory, admiration, and acclaim in the process.

You can order a "gourmet" wing dinner that includes champagne

One of our favorite options on the Hooters menu has to be the curious inclusion of a "gourmet" dinner, for those more discriminating diners or anyone looking to impress a first date or casual business acquaintance.

According to a user on Flickr, you can feast on an order of 20 of Hooters' famous wings for $15.99, or upgrade to a "Gourmet Chicken Wing Dinner," which includes 20 wings and a bottle of Dom Perignon for a modest upcharge... of $184. Yes, there really is a meal for two at Hooters that costs $199.99.

We have to admit... the thought of pairing some spicy, vinegary wing sauce with a zillion tiny French bubbles exploding in our mouths is pretty tempting, if you can get over the fact that after tax and tip you're laying down around $250 for a couple glasses of champagne and a few wings. One thing's for sure though: Order this gourmet dinner at Hooters, and you're bound to make an impression. Of some kind, at least.

On Super Bowl Sunday, each location orders a ton of extra wings

The American holiday calendar is filled with occasions to eat gluttonous amounts of not-so-good for you food, from Thanksgiving turkey dinners so large that they make us involuntarily fall asleep on the couch afterward, to great heaping bowls of pickled beef on St. Patrick's Day. But none of these overstuffed holidays can hold a candle to the biggest, unhealthiest eating holiday of all: Super Bowl Sunday.

It's the one day a year that we collectively completely abandon any sense of portion control or reasonable food choices. We eat huge bowls of spicy liquefied cheese, deep-fry the pants off of every food we can think of, and wash it all down with gallons of fizzy domestic beer. Hell, we even build entire miniature football stadiums entirely out of lunch meat.

Game day is a huge moneymaker for nearly any bar or restaurant, but if your specialty happens to be combining "Buffalo wings" with "big screen televisions" and "butts," you can earn enough in one day to positively impact your restaurant's bottom line for months.

Hooters gets ready for the onslaught of hungry Super Bowl customers early each year, when their average sales increase by 167 percent. To accommodate all of those ravenous football fans, each location of the chain orders 22,000 more wings than usual, 20 more gallons of blue cheese, and 10 more gallons of ranch.

You can get a free order on Valentine's Day, on one condition

For many restaurants, Valentine's Day promotions can mean big business for at least one night per year in February. But for anyone who happens to find themselves with their heart shattered into a million pieces, ruefully pondering a lifetime spent sleeping alone in a cold bed, unable to share their lives with that idealized special soulmate, ANTI-Valentine's Day promotions can be a big draw, as well.

In 2019, Hooters offered a special promotion: Bring in a picture of your ex, and rip it up in front of your server, and they'd help baste your broken heart in a layer of sauce, with a free order of 10 boneless or classic wings.

There's no word on whether Hooters plans to offer its "Shred Your Ex" promotion every Valentine's Day, though it is described as an "annual" offering. The company has even set up a subdomain website where you can upload a picture of your ex, shred it virtually, and receive a coupon for free wings via email.

There are 11 different sauces available

There's a reason that Buffalo wing flavoring has caught on in a big way, and is now being used to season everything from potato chips to Hot Pockets. In its original preparation, it's a deceptively simple recipe: Frank's Red Hot sauce, and a whole lot of butter. But this is one recipe where the finished product is so much more than the sum of its parts: You get the throat-burning spice from the hot sauce, along with the heavy hit of hot airborne vinegar that penetrates your sinuses and opens your pores, both balanced by the velvety richness of the fatty butter that enrobes each crispy wing.

Hooters offers four heat variations on this classic formula, ranging from "Medium" to "9-1-1." But for the truly adventurous, the options don't stop there. Hooters also offers additional taste sensations including Hot Chipotle BBQ, Honey Thai Chili Pepper, and Chipotle Garlic. There are even versions of the chain's famous wings that are finished on a hot grill, slow-smoked, or even wrapped in bacon and grilled.

You can buy Hooters wing sauce at the supermarket

For some, a trip to Hooters can feel a little embarrassing. Even if you've made your peace with the hyper-friendly, quasi-flirtatious role the waitresses sign on for when they take a job with the chain, a room full of dudes working overtime to avoid eye contact isn't always the most comfortable environment in which to knock out a heaping pile of spicy fried chicken in peace. 

But what if, innuendo aside, you happen to just really, really love the wings at Hooters? Fortunately, the restaurant has made it possible to bring at least part of the Hooters experience right into the comfort of your own home with their line of retail products. Hooters sells packaged versions of their famous wing sauces and wing breading at major retailers, including Walmart, allowing consumers to recreate the iconic dish themselves. Turn every television in your house to a different sports channel, slap on a pair of orange gym shorts, and it's almost like being there. We won't tell anyone.

You can have them delivered

Okay, so maybe you're still blushing at the thought of dining at a Hooters, and you don't want to muck around with a gallon of boiling fryer oil to make them yourself at home. What's a lonely (and hungry) customer to do?

Hooters has been aggressively expanding their delivery options for customers who may be craving Buffalo wings, but who may not necessarily want to put on pants and brave the entire Hooters experience. According to a quote in the New York PostHooters Chief Executive Terry Marks sees delivery as a big part of the chain's future. "Many people wouldn't step foot in our restaurants, but they want our product," Marks said. "Delivery [solves] the polarizing issue the brand has had."

But can a restaurant that's built its business largely on the appeal of a few hours of risk-free ogling really expect to survive once that element is removed from the equation? We'll just have to wait and see.

You can order them in bulk

You already know that when the urge to rip flesh from bone strikes, you can pop into your local Hooters and knock out a plate of pretty solid Buffalo wings for a reasonable price. But what about those special occasions or life events (y'know, classy wedding receptions, kids' birthday parties, debauched hotel room bachelor parties, or stuffy corporate marketing meetings), when you need a lot of spicy wings? No, we mean like, A LOT of wings...

The catering division of Hooters kitchen is there for you in your time of need. Most retail locations offer catering services which allow you to order hundreds upon hundreds of wings (or almost anything else from the Hooters menu) for your special event. Heck, order enough wings, and you don't even NEED an event; the wings themselves will give you plenty to do for a few hours with a group of your closest friends.