Cape Town - The Hooters restaurant chain may be best known for its voluptuous waitresses wearing skimpy outfits, but it has a new, somewhat surprising face in that of world-famous long-distance runner Zola Budd-Pieterse.
And in return, Budd-Pieterse, 47, who is being sponsored by Hooters in the Two Oceans marathon next weekend and in the Comrades marathon in June, has found herself the butt of many new jokes.
Among them is that she should be sure to keep people “abreast of things”, and to ensure she doesn’t make “a tit” of herself.
“Yes, people joke, but it’s fun,” said the former Olympic track and field star, who holds junior world records in the mile and 3 000m, and who became famous in 1984 after breaking the 5 000m senior world record.
Acknowledging that obvious sex appeal was not something for which she was generally known, Budd-Pieterse said, “That’s precisely why I think Hooters chose me – because I’m focusing on the running side of things.
“I don’t have big hooters, understand?” she laughed.
Hooters has formed the Hooters athletics club and intends sponsoring other athletes as well.
As for whether she intends wearing sexy athletics gear when participating in the marathons, Budd-Pieterse was adamant: “No, not at all.”
The married mother-of-three was quick to point out that Hooters was a “family restaurant that’s the same as the Spur”, with the obvious difference that the waitresses were “pretty girls”.
She said “hooters” was American slang for women’s breasts, and “that’s where the association started”.
The Hooters brand’s logo was however an owl, so the hooting was actually a reference to the sound of those birds.
What she did not mention, however, was that the owl’s eyes are illustrated to look like a woman’s breasts.
But Budd-Pieterse suggested that people misunderstood the brand.
“In South Africa, people have a misconception. I think it’s because men only notice the hooters and that’s all they see,” she said.
She, her husband, Michael, and the couple’s three children, who emigrated to Myrtle Beach in South Carolina in the US in 2008, often visited Hooters restaurants there, she added.
Her association with the Hooters brand was not risky, she added, and if she thought there was something untoward about the restaurants, “I wouldn’t have taken my children there”.
Roger Masson, marketing manager of Hooters SA, which has five branches across the country, also downplayed the sex-appeal side of the restaurant chain.
“Hooters is a neighbourhood restaurant where friends and family can come together to enjoy great food, excellent service and all-round good, clean fun. That’s why Zola is the perfect person to represent the athletics club,” he said in a media release.
Budd-Pieterse will be at Hooters in Edward Street in Durbanville on Wednesday, where members of the media will have a chance to interview her and Hooters staff members.