BRADENTON, Fla. - We're a week away from the official start of Girl Scout cookie season and while most are used to seeing tables set up at grocery stores, banks, or events, some might spot local troops selling their famous cookies at a famous chicken wing restaurant.
After struggling to meet their sales goals during the pandemic, Hooters invited the Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida to set up outside. The unexpected partnership not only boosted sales but wound up sending thousands more cookies to local hometown heroes.
It's the start of a busy weekend and hopefully, an even busier month. Around 730,000 boxes of cookies are headed out to the troops in the Gulfcoast council.
"They have extra big goals this year," said Kelly McGraw, director of member experience with Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida. "Our standard and most popular ones in this council are the Thin Mints and of course, followed by the Samoas. Those make up about 51% of our sales here in this council."
The pandemic was tough on sales. Scouts couldn't set up where they normally would. Profits and membership took hits.
Then, last year, Hooters reached out, offering a spot to sell at some of their Southwest Florida restaurants, including in Sarasota and Bradenton.
"They said, why don't we try this for one weekend? We'll match all of the sales and donate them to the Hometown Heroes. The girls can decide who they want to give them to, police officers, firefighters, medical workers, everyone that's been on the frontline, so to speak," McGraw said.
It turns out, hot, saucy wings and cool, refreshing Thin Mints complement each other quite well. Sales were through the roof. Hooters donated $15,000 to the Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida and $15,000 to the Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida.
Kristi Quarles, the director of marketing for Hooters' parent company, LTP Management, and a former Girl Scout herself, said it's a natural fit.
"The biggest supporters of the Girl Scouts are the Hooters girls that were Girl Scouts," Quarles said. "And that, to me, is women empowering women, business leaders, and I think that's amazing."
"Definitely the girls that are very serious about their cookie business know that if they select a spot at Hooters, they are going to sell double," McGraw said.
Sure, they've fielded questions about the girls in green tagging along with the women in white and orange, but they're proud to partner again this year, not just for a weekend, but for the whole season.
They really are learning business skills. They're making changes, they have to make eye contact with customers. They have to learn how to take no for an answer and not be upset about it," McGraw said. "We hope everybody comes out to wherever our locations are and buys them out big."
Girl Scout cookie sales kick off February 4. To find out when and where you can pick up your favorites in your neighborhood, head to https://www.girlscouts.org/en/cookies/how-to-buy-cookies.html