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Gaming Guru

Chris Jones
 

Hooters Hosts 'Casting Party'

10 November 2005

LAS VEGAS -- So what, exactly, does it take to become a Hooters Girl?

Apparently more than just a nice set of references, said those attending a "casting party' designed to fill jobs at what promises to be Las Vegas' most-intriguing resort debut of 2006.

Just ask Dolann Knox, a former UNLV student who hopes to become an eye-catching cocktail waitress once the Hooters Hotel concept fully consumes the Hotel San Remo early next year.

Armed with striking good looks and customer service skills gained from recent work with a Los Angeles financial firm, Knox said Tuesday that she hopes to join the inaugural cast of Hooters Girls, who will soon earn a living serving drinks, food and dice in the shadows of the Strip.

"Everyone loves Hooters Girls. You get to wear Daisy Dukes, flaunt your stuff and have a good time," Knox said, referring to the nickname for the notoriously short orange shorts worn by waitresses at Hooters restaurants. "It sure would be a big change from sitting behind a desk 9 to 5."

The job would also offer Knox the income and scheduling flexibility to someday resume her college education. Such promise helps explain why she spent nearly 2 1/2 hours awaiting her turn to be photographed, interviewed and videotaped -- then dismissed with a "Thank you" and white rose, but no firm promise of future employment.

Time will tell whether Knox makes the cut, which should be competitive given the number of applicants who passed through the San Remo on Tuesday. Over eight hours, approximately 800 women crowded the resort's halls with a who's who of young, attractive women.

"This totally exceeds our expectations," said Richard Langlois, senior vice president of marketing, who joined Hooters earlier this year after a 10-year career with Caesars Entertainment. "This is nothing like what I've seen at any other casino."

Because Hooters Girls are so vital to the Hooters brand, Langlois said the company strives to take care of the women who epitomize it. As a result, Hooters Girls who work just 24 hours per week will receive full-time benefits, while Hooters Hotel will offer a lounge and workout room specifically for Hooters Girls.

"Our pay level is in step with other casinos, but we think our benefits are better," Langlois said.

Cheryl Tyler has spent 18 years casting and training new Hooters Girls around the nation. Staffing a hotel-casino is a much greater challenge than a standard restaurant, she said, and not just because so many more women are needed.

"This is the biggest thing to hit the Hooters brand. All eyes are on us, so the expectations have been raised," Tyler said. "We've got no roller coasters buzzing above the building, no exploding volcano outside. The Hooters Girl is the icon of our brand; it's all we've got."

Hooters Girls typically fall into one of three categories: the all-American cheerleader, the girl next door or the surfer girl, Tyler explained. While some dismiss as sexist the requisite physical attributes Hooters seeks, Tyler said applicants are drawn to the company because it allows women to be sexy without being overtly sexual.

That's what appealed to Jessica Leavitt, a graduate of Las Vegas' Chaparral High School. After recently quitting her job as a front desk worker at a Lake Las Vegas resort, the 24-year-old mother of two girls said working at Hooters is appealing because, "It's a great way to be sexy, but in a nice, conservative way."

Ashley Day, a 22-year-old Green Valley High School graduate, has worked at Hooters' Henderson restaurant for more than two years. She's also the first Hooters Girl hired at the hotel-casino, a distinction she considers an honor "because it's so important to the company."

As she surveyed prospective co-workers in a line nearly 50 yards long, Day recalled her own audition many months ago. As a veteran who's dished out more than her share of spicy chicken wings, she offered this sage advice.

"I'm sure they're pretty nervous, thinking, 'Is she going to make it? Is she prettier than me?' " Day said.

"But it's really not about the looks. This job is so much more about having personality."

Added Langlois: "We need girls who are engaging and personable. ... If they've got that 'Wow' factor, we'll hire them even if they have no formal experience."

Applicants will be notified of job offers within the next few weeks, in time to begin training in early January, he added.

Atlanta-based Hooters of America operates or franchises nearly 400 restaurants around the world, including locations inside Henderson's Sunset Station and at 5675 W. Sahara Ave. The privately held company also lends its name -- and Hooters Girls -- to a chartered air service that began ferrying customers through McCarran International Airport in February.

In August 2004, Hooters of America announced a deal with the owners of the 711-room Hotel San Remo, which it is rebranding as the first Hooters Hotel. The property remains open during the transition, which is expected to wrap up in time for Super Bowl weekend in early February.

Tuesday's applicants could fill some of the 250 new Hooters Girl positions expected at the off-Strip hotel-casino, which is located at 115 E. Tropicana Ave. Jobs range from food and cocktail servers to bartenders and table game dealers. Property leaders also hosted a job fair Wednesday to fill an additional 250 positions that don't require workers to don pantyhose and tight orange shorts.