In the last three years, I have been employed at two of the biggest chicken wings chain restaurants in the nation: Hooters and Buffalo Wild Wings. I believe this experience gives me the ability to effectively compare and contrast the food and the atmosphere of these two fine establishments.
I worked at Hooters in Bloomington, IL two summers ago, and my employment there lasted about six months. I was a server, or as they would prefer to call an "entertainer." Most recently, I worked at Buffalo Wild Wings in Normal, IL as a server too, where my employment lasted for nine months.
I will be judging these restaurants on four key components: uniform convenience, wing options, sauce range, and restaurant atmosphere.
1. Uniform convenience
As many of you know, Hooter's uniform standards are, well, tough. When I worked there, you were expected to wear your hair down and styled (either curly or straight). Your nails had to be manicured and painted either clear, french tip, or nude, with the exception of October when you're allowed to paint them pink for breast cancer awareness. You are expected to wear makeup whenever you are working but nothing too outrageous, just general glam. You are only required to wear blush, mascara, and lipstick. However, as my manager said in training, "more makeup equals more tips." The shorts must fit snug on your hips with the shirt tucked in, specific Hooters tights must be worn under the shorts, white no-show socks, and the white non-slip sneakers provided by the company. The uniforms also only run from XXXS to Medium. I wore an XXS uniform — and I'm about a universal size 0. Don't even get me started on what days you had to wear the white uniform, versus the black, versus the military. The funny thing about the uniforms is you are NEVER allowed to wear them outside of the store. You had to wear clothing over the uniform while you were walking in from your car.
Buffalo Wild Wings, on the other hand, is exactly the opposite — very chill and relaxed. If your hair is longer than your shoulders, it must be pulled out of your face in a ponytail or bun. My hair is just a tad longer than my shoulders, so I got away with wearing if half up-half down since I couldn't get the bottom to fit into a ponytail. You're given a couple of t-shirts by the management, and you can wear virtually any pants of a dark color besides yoga pants or leggings. These include jeans, slacks, or shorts (as long as they went to your knee). Oh, and your non-slip shoes have to be black. You also aren't supposed to have hair that's outrageous colors or crazy makeup, but that didn't stop some people at my store.
The only thing in common with these two places is the sheer fact that you need a name tag. But, Buffalo Wild Wings would only give you one name tag, and you would be sent home if you showed up to work without it. Hooters gave you three name tags. Two would be kept with you (one brown and one black) and a brown one would be kept in the manager's office in case you forgot, or if another girl needed a new identity, which happened to me a few times since my name is very unique and easy to find on Facebook.
Since for Hooters you're physically unable to roll out of bed and go to work if you're running late or called in, Buffalo Wild Wings wins this category.
2. Wing options
Though both of these places are known for their wings, obviously one reigns superior. The only thing in common with these places is their sides of ranch and bleu cheese dressing. Although Hooters has different colored ramekins for each side, Buffalo Wild Wings has them in the same colored ramekin, making the server's life a living hell.
Let's start off with BWW, where the two options of wings are "traditional" and "boneless." Now, before I started working there, I LOVED the boneless wings with my heart and soul... until I learned that they, as well as the tenders, are frozen. If you look closely on the menu they note that "Traditional Wings Are Made Fresh Daily," and that's what they literally mean. The traditional, bone-in wings are made fresh by the cooks daily, whereas when an order of boneless wings come in they pop a few in the fryer to unthaw. Sizing wise, BWW offers their wings in Snack, Small, Medium, and Large. Frankly, though I worked there for so long, I still can't tell you how many wings exactly come in each size. Also, I'm not sure the cooks do either. I had some customers complaining they had only 5 wings in their snack size when it usually comes with 7 or 8, and I really never knew how to answer that question.
Hooters, on the other hand, makes all of their wings fresh daily: Boneless, Bone-In, Daytona Style (thrown back on the grill for an extra sizzle after saucing), Bacon Wrapped, and Smoked (in stores that have a smoker). They also give you the option of having your wings breaded or naked, unlike BWW with the only option for tenders. Sizing wise at Hooters, you can order your wings in an 8-count, 10-count, 10-count half and half (which includes 2 sauces), 20-count, 20-count half and half, 50-count, or 50-count half and half.
Though Hooters wings are a little on the pricier side, they are definitely worth the cost. With a wider variety and better quality, Hooters wins this round.
3. Sauce range
The Hooters menu has changed A LOT since I started working there, and the sauces have most definitely taken the biggest hit. When I worked at Hooters, they had 19 sauces you could choose from for your wings. Now, they are down to 12. You can choose from Original BBQ, Honey BBQ (thank you for finally adding it), Hot Chipotle BBQ, Honey Thai Chili Pepper, Caribbean Jerk Dry Rub, Chipotle Garlic, Medium, Hot, Three Mile Island, 9-1-1, or the famous Daytona (hands down the best). Hooters sauces tend to be pretty mild, besides the hotter buffalo style sauces, which tends to be a big hit among the customers. Something unique is that you could choose for your wings to have no sauce and just be blackened — something a lot of people requested when I worked there that we were unable to do. Regardless, if you go to Hooters, order your wings Daytona and you will not be disappointed.
Now, Buffalo Wild Wings is vastly known for their extremely hot sauce Blazin. I'm sure you have heard of, or have been brave enough to try, the Blazin Challenge. Basically, you have to eat 12 traditional wings, doused in Blazin sauce, in six minutes without any water or milk. I have never once witnessed a Blazin Challenge, and I hope I never have to.
Buffalo Wild Wings has 22 sauces and rubs to choose for your wings including: Salt and Vinegar, Lemon Pepper, Chipotle BBQ, Buffalo, Desert Heat, Sweet BBQ, Teriyaki, Bourbon Honey Mustard, Buffalo Mild, Parmesan Garlic, Honey BBQ, Buffalo Medium, Spicy Garlic, Asian Zing, Caribbean Jerk, Hot BBQ, Jammin Jalapeno (occasionally), Thai Curry, Buffalo Hot, Mango Habanero, Buffalo Wild, and Blazin. BWW's sauces can get pretty hot, which is good for people like me that don't have tastebuds unless they are on fire.
A difference between these two restaurants is how the wings are sauced. Buffalo Wild Wings "spins" their wings — this is why sometimes your wings come out basically dry. When the cooks are busy or in a hurry, they won't get spun as much as a time they are when it's slow. So whenever you go to Buffalo Wild Wings, ask for your wings extra wet. Hooters on the other hand "tosses" their wings in sauce. By doing this they make sure that every inch of the wing is covered in sauce. If you ask for them extra wet, you will have them dripping, which is just as delicious.
All in all, due to the variety of sauces, BWW wins this one.
4. Restaurant atmosphere
Hooters, surprisingly, has a very dense history. Founded in Clearwater, FL, three friends met up every year for a beach getaway. Though every year they changed, one thing about their trip didn't — they got kicked out of their favorite bar for being rowdy. They decided they need to make a bar founded on fun with a beach theme they all loved. They actually called it Hooters because of an owl that was perched behind their favorite bar in Clearwater, not a fun play on words about a woman's chest. As a part of your experience at Hooters, you are bound to form a personal relationship with your Hooters girl. It's very common for them to take an empty seat at your table and spark up a conversation if the restaurant is a little slow. Hooters girls personas are bubbly and fun, so you are bound to form a relationship and come back to see her — that's the Hooters way. My manager once said, "Even if you drop the food on the floor, and spit on it, you'll still get a tip." Hooters is a genuinely happy place to visit and work.
In contrast, Buffalo Wild Wings is nothing short of a sports bar. Unlike Hooters where the main focus of the restaurant is the girls, BWW is all about sports. If it's really slow, maybe people will ask you a question. Though as a part of the Buffalo Wild Wings experience, you are supposed to form a personal relationship with the guest. In the midst of all the sports, sometimes it gets kind of difficult. A restaurant like this is where you get the mean people that make working in the food industry... SO GREAT! Where you can give them the best service of your life but still get stiffed on a bill.
With Hooters always making you happy, I'd say they win this round.
Well, we're at a draw. Both establishments have great food and atmosphere. At this point, it's just about personal preference as to who you'd want serving your wings.