What have Disney & Hooters got in common?

It sounds like a bad joke but believe me, the punchline is a killer lesson for businesses. I’ve just got back from a fortnight in sunny Florida. The first holiday I’ve had in five years since starting my own business. And you know what, Brad fans? It was educational to say the least.

At the beginning of the month, I decided to take the wife and my two boys to Disney World, Florida. On the surface of it, the trip was just a holiday, but I decided to use the experience as an opportunity to seek out examples of how the best businesses in the sunshine state remain at the top of their game.

Here’s what I found.

At the Disney theme parks, we had a blast. But I practically had to remortgage my house to buy the tickets.

The parks cost a fortune to run and maintain but boy do they engage their audience. How? It constantly reinvests. From a conversation I had with a cast member, they have upwards of 60,000 trained, seemingly enthused, upbeat employees working the parks every day. That’s a serious wage bill. But you get what you pay for. At Disney World not only do you get a safe, clean, exciting kids utopia, you also get to see a utopia of how great business can be when it’s constantly revised, tweaked and refinanced.

You know what I just loved most about Disney? Every ten minutes the dollars seemed to flow out of my pockets. Sodas, Mickey Mouse merchandise, ride photos, they all cost. And yet it didn’t matter because we were having so much fun, so much holiday.

Along with everyone else, I got caught up in the whole Disney decadence.

Disney is a business with a culture of constant reinvestment. The more money comes in, the more money gets reinvested. It’s a winning strategy. You walk around, whilst they empty your pockets, with a smile on your face. It’s an amazing experience, an amazing business. Worth every cent.

While "on location", and at the recommendation of a friend, I also had "Visit Hooters" on my TO DO list. You may have heard of it. It’s a "restaurant" where the waitresses wear orange hot pants and skinny vests – it looks like something straight out of a seventies porn film.

Before I set off, my friend explained that Hooters had reinvented themselves. No longer a macho, beer-swilling, football-watching place for drunken blokes to go ogle at the waitresses, it had become, believe it or not, a family-friendly venue.

So with that I persuaded the wife that we’d give it a look and mosey’d on down with my two boys.

Take it from me. Hooters has not reinvented itself. I’m sure it was a joke on my friend’s part.

…Not that I’m in any way complaining.

Predictably, I loved it. And so did every other bloke in there. It was absolutely rammed with guys wearing American Football tops shouting "DEFENCE!" at one of the tens of plasma screens around the venue showing sports.

I was so impressed with the whole thing. Mainly the "business element", of course. There was the branding, the girls (they should all be nominated for Oscars – each of the blokes in there felt at home because of the deft way the Hooters girls laughed at our rubbish jokes and pretended they were interested in us), the approach, the boobies, the wings.

It was like a surreal themepark where overweight, balding blokes (and there’s a lot of us), could watch sports, be fed by hot women and could feel special. You know you are being hustled but you don’t care.

Chicken wings were served with big white smiles, a nudge nudge, wink wink, by waitresses who engage, and the dollars just ease themselves out of your pockets with upsells. And of course I left a tip – the biggest one of the holiday! The wife, she also enjoyed the experience, buying herself a Hooters t-shirt. However, I think when I get UK side, the likelihood of the recreated experience will probably stop as far as the occasional wear of the shirt…

Chicken wings, boobs and Mickey Mouse ears aside, should you find yourself in the US, both Hooters and Disney are essential visits. You will understand what makes them so special and how mixing business with pleasure works. Just tell your wife that Real Business columnist Brad Burton says Hooters has "reinvented themselves as a family venue".

And in answer to my opening question: what have Disney and Hooters got in common? I’ll tell you what. Great customer service, giving the customer – their target market – what they want. The lesson? Create desire and stuff sells itself. Disney and Hooters are the same business model. They both mix business and pleasure. Because it works.Don’t forget to follow Brad’s rants on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BradBurton and learn more about the ‘Marketing Genius’ at www.bradburton.biz

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