REAL ESTATE

Location data analytics spurs Hooters growth

BY Debby Garbato

“The game’s on,” says the Hooters waitress in a recent TV commercial. “Where you gonna be?”

Where Hooters is going to be is in a lot more locations. Since Mark Whittle became chief development officer of Hooters six years ago, the restaurant brand has opened 32 new locations. In the six years preceding Whittle’s arrival, it opened just about half a dozen.

Location analytics was the accelerant in this growth spurt at the 300-store chain. Whittle was an early adopter of the data provided by CBRE’s Forum Analytics unit, having used its services to guide expansion at Focus Brands and Huddle House going back more than a decade.

“We made a conscious decision to open new stores and this has been an important instrument,” Whittle said. “It helps determine if certain things would be better or worse for you, considering things like being close to Walmart, average household income, or if a community is a certain percentage Hispanic.”

Hooters uses the intelligence to troubleshoot existing stores and share the findings with franchisees and managers.

“We get a model report we run against existing stores. You can look at underperforming locations based on what the model says and talk intelligently to operators about how they can increase sales,” Whittle said.

Location analytics helps Hooters ensure that pricing and labor rates are in line with its store rental rates and average household incomes. It can even be used to tailor menu items by location and increase profits. “If we launch a margarita drink, we can see how it did in urban, suburban, or small town markets. We may find that a new Buffalo chicken dip did better with Anglos than with Hispanics.”

The system is not perfect, but it sure beats the old way, according to Whittle. Yet be forewarned, the more expansive the store network, the more data there is for determining patterns, and the better the results.

“You need hundreds of thousands of data points,” said Paul Sill, global retail analytics practice leader at CBRE and founder of Forum Analytics. “You want to tell the client they have a 70% chance of doing $2 million in a certain location. It’s not for a company with a few locations.”

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