Liang Wei Qi (梁玮淇), a Changning District native who goes by the “English” name of Quasar, is a 20-year-old junior English major at Shanghai University. She is also a Hooters Girl, one of around 50 waitresses who work at the restaurant which opened in western Shanghai nearly one year ago. The Shanghai Hooters is the first of seven potential locations in China. The Hooters China website promises patrons “Hooters Girls hula-hooping and singing.” And they indeed do both. Click the following links for some sound files: a birthday song, another birthday song and “I’m A Little Teapot.” Of the singing, Quasar said, “I enjoy it when customers enjoy it.” In her Shanghaiist interview, Quasar also touches upon skimpy uniforms, flirtatious customers, tipping and, yes, the Mayflower. [Here are some Hooters Shanghai photos, directions to the restaurant and a copy of their menu.]
So, how did you learn about the job openings at Hooters? My home is near the resturant and my parents suggested I work there after they had a dinner there.
Really? What did they say to you? What did they like about Hooters? They like the happy atmosphere there. They had a lot of fun and enjoyed the dinner. It’s very different from any other restaurants in China. And all the girls look healthy and also very happy.
Was there a sign that said they were hiring? Well, they asked the manager. Actually, Hooters always needs girls because many of us are doing it as a part-time job.
Was it difficult for you to get the job? I had a interview. You know, because of my major it wasn’t very tough.
You mean English? Yes. That’s the main point that they want.
What was the interview process like? Did they ask you any questions that you thought were strange? Or did they ask you for any information that you thought was unusual? No. All the questions were normal and it didn’t last long. They just asked for name, address, phone number, interests, favorite sports, how you know about Hooters.
Had you ever heard of Hooters before? No.
What did they tell you about Hooters? It’s a famous American restaurant established in 1985 in Florida. And it is famous for its unique sports style and hot girls.
So they told you about the hot girls? Yes, but we know we are different from the native Hooters girls.
In what way? Not as open as them.
What do you mean, not as open? Well, at the begining, there were several native girls. They came here to train the girls here and I have been told they were very energetic and hot. Because of the Chinese culture, sometimes we are still very shy.
When you say native girls, do you mean American? Yeah.
So maybe you aren’t as outgoing as the American girls … but are the Chinese Hooters girls just as hot? Maybe some of us are. Hooters is a large family and everyone has her own character, so we can attract different customers.
How would you describe the atmosphere of the Shanghai Hooters restaurant? Passionate, friendly, attractive, healthy. Chinese style plus US style. Also, fun and joy.
What part is the Chinese style? The girls. And the Chinese customers. And some special meals to suit chinese customers’ stomach.
Right, but even though the waitresses are Chinese and the customers are Chinese, don’t you act differently at Hooters than you would at a Chinese restaurant? Of course. There won’t be a Chinese restaurant that can do the same thing as Hooters. It can’t be copied.
So, how is Hooters different from a Chinese restaurant? Food, atmoshpere, attendents. Almost every part. I think most Chinese customers are here because the curiosity. And it’s the first one that waitress wear this uniform.
Definitely. We’ll talk more about that uniform in a little bit. Right now, could you tell our readers some things that happen in Hooters that they would never see at a normal Chinese restaurant? Well, if someone visits on his birthday, we will gather together to sing our special song for him and he must stand on the chair, and take two menus as his chicken wings.
Why would this never happen at a Chinese restaurant? You know, most Chinese restaurants only pay attantion to the foods. They regard that as the most important part for a restaurant.
Do you think Chinese who come to Hooters feel that visiting the restaurant is a cheap way to visit America? Somewhat. I found many of them know Hooters is very typical American style.
Do you believe that? Why not?
Well, I’m not sure if most Americans would want Hooters restaurants to be what most Chinese think is “America.” Why?
I think Hooters is pretty unique in America, too. It’s not typical. I see.
Anyway, in what ways do Hooters girls act differently than a typical Chinese waitress? We have the duty to make every customer have fun and chat with them. Our atmosphere is somewhat noisy, but almost everyone likes it.
When you were new at Hooters, how did your managers explain the way you were supposed to interact with your customers? Chat with them, make them happy, bring our best to let them like Hooters and then want to come again.
Was that difficult for you at first? Of course. But it’s not a very tough thing. Making others happy makes me happy, too.
Do they tell you to “flirt” with customers? No. It’s forbidden. And we’ll be fired if we give our phone number or email to the customers.
That’s good. So, what kinds of people eat at Hooters in Shanghai? My mother urged me to work there to practice my oral English. I’d say 50 percent is Americans, 20 percent European, 20 percent Chinese, 10 percent Japanese.
Do the different types of customers interact with the Hooters girls differently? Well, some like to chat with us while someone enjoy being alone.
Is this a cultural thing? Like are people from one country more likely to talk than those from another country? I mean, Japanese customers always just eat and drink, maybe because of the language barrier.
Which customers are the most talkative? Of course, Americans.
Why do you say “of course”? Even before I started working at Hooters, I know Americans are the most passionate and friendly. This may be because your country’s history.
What do you mean? Since the people on the Mayflower, they were finding their freedom.
Um, OK. So, how do you feel when customers want to take your photo? Or have their photo taken with you? We are “camera ready.”
Is that part of your job description? Yes.
When you started the job, were you surprised that people wanted to take your photo? A little bit. But it feels good.
I guess this doesn’t happen at other restaurant here, right? Yeah. This job brings me much fun, even if it’s tiring, also.
Do you ever get tired of having your photo taken? No! I mean during my work time I must stand, so it makes me a little bit tired.
Have any of your customers ever asked you out on a date? Or has this happened to any of your other coworkers? Yes, because they chat with each other and are very happy and want to continue, but as far as I know no one went out for a date with them. For they can come back again.
The customers can come back, you mean? Yes. They can choose another day.
But they probably want more than that, right? Someone will say that, but they are actually just joking. The rules here are very strict to prevent that kind of thing.
Hmmm. My girlfriend wants to know about the uniform. Do you like it? It’s my work, so I can’t say whether I like or not.
Ha. Do you think it’s comfortable? Well, it is.
Really? What about the tights you have to wear on your legs? It’s OK, once we get used of it.
Do you enjoy the singing that Hooters girls do? It’s also my work, but I enjoy it when customers enjoy it.
What songs do you guys sing? The birthday song, “You Are My Sunshine,” “I’m A Little Teapot,” and so on.
Favorite? Least favorite? “I’m A Little Teapot,” and maybe no least favorite.
How many Hooters girls are there in Shanghai? Maybe 50.
Really? Wow. But, you know, most are part-time.
How many usually work at one time? No more than 20.
What would you say is the average age of a Hooters girl? 21.
Is there an age limit? Um, I don’t know.
How old is the oldest Hooters girl you know? Maybe 27.
And the youngest? 18.
You said most are part-time? Does that mean most are students? Yes.
Will you continue to work during school? Yes, but just on the weekend.
How does the salary for a waitress at Hooters compare to waitresses at other restaurants? We make 6 yuan an hour. And we have a service charge, and tips.
Does that mean it’s better? Yes.
As you know, tips are uncommon in China. What percentage of Hooters customers actually leave tips? Almost every American and some Europeans. Maybe 20 percent.
Are most of the Americans tourists? Or here on business? Or do they live here? Mostly tourists, and several for business.
I think that explains the tipping. Because I don’t think most Americans who live here leave tips, especially if there is already a service charge. So don’t get mad if someone doesnt leave a tip! We just do our best. We already have a salary.
Do you think Hooters waitresses deserve tips more than waitreses at other Chinese restaurants? Of course. We do much more than those in other restaurants.
I have to ask: Do you know what the word “hooters” means? I know. It doesn’t matter. We stand for that kind of girls that are pretty, passionate and friendly.
Who told you what it means? My manager.
Were you surprised? Yes.
Yeah, for a while Hooters was famous for having waitresses with large breasts. I guess that’s not the way it is in China? Yes, we just have to behave very energetically.
Someone told me that waitresses at Hooters in China must wear special kinds of bras. Is that true? No. Just the normal ones. Many of us don’t have great ones, but it’s OK.
“Great ones”? Are you talking about breasts? Yes.
In America, there used to be some controversy about Hooters. Feminists didn’t like it because they thought it treated women poorly, treated them just as sex objects. I guess you dont think that’s the way it is in China? In China, there aren’t many feminists.
When I was there, the guys in the table next to me were ranking the Hooters girls. Saying who they thought was the prettiest. Do you like that kind of attention? It’s very common in our restaurant. It’s OK.
How long do you plan on working at Hooters? I don’t know. Maybe after I graduate.
What are you future plans, dreams? To be a freelancer. (Laughs)
Seriously? You want to be a journalist? Not only that. I want to do something that gives me freedom. I don’t want to be in an office, repeating the same work day after day.
What are your favorite restaurants? I like home cooking.
What about Hooters food? Do you get discounts on the food at Hooters? I like some of it. I can get 50 percent off.
What are your favorites? Chicken wings. I like flaps, but you guys like the drums.
OK. last question: Have you had many comments on your English name? Ha. I know it’s a television brand in the US, but i like it indeed. It has a beautiful meaning in Chinese.
How did you choose it? In the dictionary.
Right, but … you just saw the word and liked it? Yes.
You said it has a nice meaning in Chinese? It’s a dying star and it is the brightest object in universe.
And so you are the brightest object on Earth. Right? Ha. I just like the name. I don’t want to be the brightest, just normal.
Interview is a regular feature on Shanghaiist. Know someone in Shanghai you think would make for a good interview? Email tips(@)shanghaiist.com.