Ed Droste is a 'Florida Icon'
The co-founder of the Clearwater Beach-based "breastaurant" chain shares lessons he's picked up through life.
I never cooked a chicken wing. Not one in 30 years.
Study the market. Study what the market’s looking for. Identify the niche and then evaluate your product objectively and find out if it meets that niche or if you need to modify your product to meet the niche.
In college, I promptly disappointed everyone by struggling through a 2.3 grade point average. The idea of becoming a lawyer kind of went to the side.
When we opened the doors to the first Hooters, nothing. I’m panicking. I had to get it going. I thought advertising, but I had no budget. My partners were like, ‘Eddie what do you need an advertising budget for?’ So my budget was me renting a chicken costume and running around in traffic.
Out of the clear blue, we get a charge that we’re basically in violation of the Civil Rights Act because we didn’t hire guys as Hooters girls. This was 1993, ’94, ’95. We knew we were OK because there’s a federal law statute that allows it — it’s called a BFOQ — Bona Fide Occupational Qualification. In certain positions, you can’t discriminate, but you can differentiate if the sex is essential to that position. You know, the Rockettes should be girls. From the beginning, we put the Hooters girl up on the billboard. She was the catalyst and star of our product. She wasn’t some afterthought. She was an essential element. Well, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission didn’t care. In mediation, they wanted us to pay $27 million, which we didn’t have. They wanted us to fire 50% of the women working for us and offer the jobs to men. This would have put us out of business.
I dedicated a hall up at Iowa State, where I went to college. It’s supposed to be like a study hall — the Droste Den. It’s really cool, but the last time I was up there everybody’s in there sleeping and I thought, ‘How appropriate.’ That’s kind of the way I went through school.
I’ve had a lot of luck with a little thing I’ve done over the years, which is I focus on cultivating my strengths. I know what I’m good at and I want to get better, so I cultivate it. But I also know my weaknesses. In a million years, I’m not going to get really good at financial reporting. I’m not going to get really good at empirical studies. I don’t have the discipline for it.
Entrepreneurs worry all the time. You’re going to bed a little bit scared and waking up a little scared, but that’s why you do it. You like that little fear factor.
Even when we were having legal issues among the partners, we always remained civil with each other. Our attorneys could never understand how we could beat each other up in court and then go out for beers afterward.
My wife, Marsha, is fantastic. She’s young, a lot younger than me, so maybe it’s not out of the question that we have a kid. The kid would have to call me grandpa. Right now, we are considering the biggest, biggest decision of our marriage. We are thinking about a dog or maybe two dogs.
Sen. Connie Mack pulled me into the Moffitt Cancer Center. First, it was just as a major supporter. A few years back, I was elected chairman of the foundation’s board for a two-year term that I’m now in my sixth year of.
When we first started Hooters, myself and five partners, we kind of represented the niche. The restaurant industry was overwhelmed with fern bars at the time: Chili’s. TGI Fridays. Bennigan’s. We were all from the Midwest and so our idea was Midwest meets carefree beach oasis. We tested it on ourselves. We figured if it worked on us, it would work on others.
We don’t embrace the term ‘breastaurant,’ but it’s often said. We were first in the category, but that isn’t what we set out to create.
I love golf. I have this foursome with Jon Gruden, myself, Bruce Allen (general manager of the Washington Redskins) and Jim McVay, the Outback Bowl CEO. We play smash-mouth golf. We’re all pretty crappy golfers, but we trash talk. We’ll build up a match like it’s the Super Bowl. You know how Jon Gruden prepares for Monday Night Football. Imagine him preparing for a match. Everything gets pulled out from your past performances.
Marsha came up through the Hooters ranks. She was in the calendar a bunch of times. I always voted against her because I thought she had pudgy cheeks. We still laugh about that.
In case you missed it:
- Greg Asbed is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Sherrill Milnes is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Florida Icon: Pedro José Greer Jr.
- Al Hoffman is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Ronald ‘Winky' Wright is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Steve Spurrier, Florida Icon
- Wilson Bradshaw is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Craig Fugate is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Michael Saunders is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Joey Cornblit is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Alex Sink is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Norman Braman is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Bello Nock is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Zev Buffman is a ‘Florida Icon'
- M.J. Soileau is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Susan Benton is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Terry Stiles is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Theresa Manuel is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Dan ‘Tater' Porter is a Florida Icon
- Joe Redner is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Nicole Johnson is a 'Florida Icon'
- Ron Magill is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Artis Gilmore is a ‘Florida Icon'
- An Interview with George Billiris
- Frank Morsani is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Alto ‘Bud' Adams Jr. is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Winston Scott is a 'Florida Icon'
- Florida Icon: Carlton Ward Jr.
- Florida Icon: Mel Tillis
- Robert M. 'Bob' Beall II is a Florida ‘Icon'
- Peter Meinke - A life in poetry
- Carl Hiaasen is a Florida ‘Icon'
- Nan-Yao Su is a Florida 'Icon'
- Roland Martin is a Florida ‘Icon'
- Florida Icon: Derrick Brooks
- An interview with Annika Sorenstam
- Iconic Florida developer H. Irwin Levy
- ‘Alligator' Ron Bergeron is a Florida Icon
- Howard Schnellenberger is a Florida 'Icon'
- Florida Icon: Barbara Mainster
- Florida Icon: Walter Lanier ‘Red' Barber
- Louise Gopher is a 'Florida Icon'
- H. Lee Moffitt is a 'Florida Icon'
- Kiran Patel is a 'Florida Icon'
- 'Florida Icon' Howard C. Tibbals shares life lessons
- Alex D. Brickler is a 'Florida Icon'
- Life lessons from hockey great Phil Esposito
- Lucy Morgan is a 'Florida Icon'
- Donald Goodman is a 'Florida Icon'
- Ray Ferrero Jr. - Florida Icon
- W. George Allen is a 'Florida Icon'
- Tom James is a 'Florida Icon'
- Patrick Smith is a 'Florida Icon'
- Jerry Uelsmann is a 'Florida Icon'
- John L. Parker is a 'Florida Icon'
- C.C. 'Doc' Dockery is a 'Florida Icon'
- Toni Jennings is a 'Florida Icon'
- Dave Barry is a 'Florida Icon'
- Shaquille O'Neal is a 'Florida Icon'
- Ruth Alexander is a Florida Icon
- Brian Johnson is a Florida Icon
- Florida Icon: Sam Gibbons
- Thomas 'Blue' Fulford
- Icon: Don 'Big Daddy' Garlits
- Icon: Charles E. 'Chuck' Cobb Jr.
- Icon: John DeGrove
- Icon: Charles Gray
- Icon: Harry Crews
- Icon: Burt Reynolds
- Icon: Tibor Hollo
- Icon: Gary Mormino
- Icon: Richard Gonzmart
- Icon: Bob Graham
- Icon: Ward Hall
- Icon: Eugenie Clark
- Icon: Warrick Dunn
- Icon: Arthur Rutenberg
- Icon: Chris Evert
- Icon: Preston Haskell
- Icon: Joseph Kittinger
- Icon: The Fanjul Brothers
- Icon: Romero Britto
- Icon: Steve Raymund
- Icon: Cesar L. Alvarez
- Icon: Juan 'Chi Chi' Rodriguez
- Icon: Gay Culverhouse
- Icon: Gene Leedy
- Icon: William R. Hough
- Icon: Peter Prichard
- Icon: Ed Price
- Icon: David L. Paul
- Icon: Jan Garavaglia
- Icon: Claude R. Kirk Jr.
- Icon: Don Zimmer
- Icon: Kenneth H. 'Buddy' MacKay
- Icon: Dick Vitale
- Icon: Michael Gannon
- Icon: Marcella Hazan
- Icon: Tony Little
- Icon: Wade L. Hopping
- Icon: Edgar Mitchell
- Icon: James Rosenquist
- Icon: Bob Martinez
- Icon: Arnold Palmer
- Icon: Don Shula
- Icon: Mike Peters
- Icon: Margaret D. Lowman
- Icon: Doug Williams
- Icon: Bob Butterworth
- Icon: Fred Schultz
- Icon: Eugene Patterson
- Icon: Harris Mullen
- Icon: Bill Haast
- Icon: Marion P. Hammer
- Icon: Albert Dunlap
- Icon: Joseph Woodrow Hatchett
- Icon video: Joseph Hatchett
- Icon: Talbot 'Sandy' D'Alemberte
- Icon: John Walsh
- Icon: James Robert Cade
- Icon: Nathaniel Pryor Reed
- Icon: Gus Stavros
- Icon: Betty Castor
- Icon: Mary Ann Carroll
- Icon: George Steinbrenner
- Icon: Ferdie Pacheco
- Icon: Vic Dunaway
- Icon: George Smathers
- Icon: Phyllis Apple
- Icon: Nick Bollettieri
- Icon: Harris Rosen
- Icon: Max Mayfield
- Icon: Carrie Meek
- Icon: Andres Duany
- Icon: T. Willard Fair
- Icon: Bobby Bowden
- Icon: Stetson Kennedy
- Icon: Don Francisco
- Icon: Janet Reno
- Icon: Reubin O'D. Askew
- Icon: Clyde Butcher
- Icon: Willie Gary
- Icon: Wayne Huizenga