A couple of years ago, I spent two weeks in China, more-or-less evenly divided between Beijing and Shanghai.
I really don’t have a lot of positive things to say about the country, as a result. There was no sense of being a guest, rather I felt mostly like a wallet on legs that the locals did their very best to extract the contents of, frequently by offering me the services of young women for what would have been – sorry, ladies – a very short time indeed.
I do, however, have a very high opinion of the China-based branches of the “Hooters” restaurant chain, one of the few places I could go and find people that would talk to me in English and not try to sell me time with any of the staff. Working at Hooters in China is apparently seen as a good way to get in lots of English conversation practice, and the majority of the wait staff that I spoke with had aspirations towards hotel management or international business and really wanted to chat. And chat. And make me stand up and sing songs.
This is where I should probably mention that I have scored a solid INTJ on every Myers-Briggs exam I have ever taken. I am scientifically proven to be an introvert, and singing “row, row, row your boat” in the middle of a restaurant full of other diners is a bloody master’s exam in the “how good am I at faking extroversion” class.
I will not at any point deny that the actual appeal of Hooters comes largely from being served by young women in short shorts and low-cut shirts, though – with all apologies – no amount of low cutting could have generated more than the slightest hint of cleavage. On the other hand, there would be loud music every half hour or so and the staff would put on a little dance routine, in which booty shaking was attempted.
Finally, and I admit that just now getting around to the food might not cast me in the proudest of lights, the burgers I had were excellent. They would have been unremarkable-to-good in the context of an American restaurant, but in China that stands out as quite a feat.
So, in the spirit of Scientific Inquiry, and finding myself in Tokyo in a hotel only four stations away from the Tokyo branch of the chain, I decided that I would try it to compare.
I will sum it up; it was All Wrong.
Here I will lead with the food, because they could have at least gotten that right. I had the “Baja Burger”, described by the menu as being topped with guacamole and pico de gallo and – I will be very clear here – a “Mexican-style” burger.
I pray for the sake of the restaurant that nobody from Mexico ever tries it.
It did have a sort of green paste on it, which might have had avocados as a component, and there was a red paste as well which might have been the pico de gallo, but both were almost completely devoid of any flavor. They were “green” and “red” and those are the only descriptors I can apply. The bun was so bereft of any real substance that biting it was akin to chewing foam, and the burger patty… well, it was your typical Japanese burger patty; cooked medium well but without any searing done, and with no texture whatsoever.
So, you say, “a disappointing burger, but what about the customer service?” and I am sorry to report abject failure on that front as well. I arrived, was seated, had my drink order taken, had my food order taken and food delivered, ate it, sat at the table for a while, and eventually got up and wandered over to the register to ask if they could print out my check and take my money. The chatty style I would expect from an American or Chinese Hooters was not on display, and there was certainly no sign of periodic dance routine.
The official motto of the chain is “Hooters Makes You Happy”, but I will accept that a true reading is “Hooters: We Don’t Really Like You But We’re Paid To Fake It”. Japan seems to have fallen down on both counts.
As a final insult, because one had to be forthcoming, the bill – when finally produced – included a 10% service charge.
I paid my Y2376, helped myself to a complimentary Hooters-branded uchiwa on my way out, and called it a lesson learned.
And then I wrote 750 words complaining about it. 🙂