When Lakita Evans decided to name her place of business Fat Ho Burgers she was looking for attention. But she did not expect to stir up a hornet’s nest of controversy in the heart of the Texas Bible Belt. That is exactly what is happening as people in the Waco community as well as places thousands of miles away are engaging in lively debates about the appropriateness of Evans use of the term “ho” in her restaurant’s name.
Fat Ho Burgers opened just a few weeks ago and is located in an unassuming white building with a lone red and white sign proclaiming its name. The restaurant sits in the middle of a South Waco, low-income neighborhood, and is just a stone’s throw away from historic Kate Ross public housing. Baylor University is only a few blocks away on the other side of I-35.
According to Fox4 News, the owner of another neighborhood spot, Gospel Café’s Pastor Marsha Martie is not pleased or amused with the name of the restaurant. She is not alone. A facebook page was recently started by Shell O Littleton and others that encourages people to support the page’s message of keeping Waco positive. One comment by Christi Blocker says … “More and more, we are being desensitized to sex, drugs, violence and foul language. It is being marketed to us in humor, advertising, songs, commercials … everywhere we turn.” Then, In a recent blog post it is claimed that Littleton offered to help Evans with marketing and promotions if she would change the name of her restaurant.
I understand that reaction. When I first heard about the opening of “Fat Ho Burgers” I was left speechless, holding the phone with my mouth wide open in disbelief. My daughter happened to be visiting me and her first response was that the name was a “pure genius”marketing tactic. Then we revisited a discussion we have had many times before about the current hip hop era we live in. I wanted to try to understand how and why Lakita Evans wanted her business to have a name that many consider to be derogatory to women. So I set up an interview and did a little research before visiting Evans and Fat Ho Burgers.
When I met Evans she was in the middle of a very busy lunch hour. She was wearing a Fat Ho Burgers shirt as were most of her employees. Early on in the interview Evans revealed that she does not feel that she is being negative toward women or disrespecting women. One of her goals in opening the restaurant was so that she could help women and others in need. She also wants to encourage others to go after their dream as she is doing. Evans shared the story of how she came up with the name of her restaurant after watching a popular hip hop movie.
“I was watching the movie “Phat Girlz” one night last summer and they had a burger place named “Fat-Ass- Burger,” she says. “When Monique walked up to the counter and ordered a fat ass burger, a fat ass milk shake, and skinny ass fries—I fell out laughing! A couple of months later while I was working [at Walmart] and thinking about what I would call my place of business, the name Fat Ho Burgers just popped into my mind and I burst out laughing. Then I asked a co-worker what she thought of a restaurant named Fat Ho Burgers and she burst out laughing too. That’s when I decided that my place was going to be named Fat Ho Burgers.”
About the negative comments about her place of business, she said that she wished “people would focus their energy and time on trying to do something for others instead of wasting their time talking negative about me. In these tough economic times everyone could do better by coming up with ideas to help those in need.”
Evans talked about how tough it has been to get her restaurant up and going. She says although she had to sell some things that she really needed—such as her car and computer—she was totally focused on going into business for herself and becoming successful. “Even while working as a teenager,” Evans said, “I put my life on hold so that I could stay focused on trying to get ahead.” She said she hasn’t had time over the years for a social life like most of her friends because she had to work so hard to try and get out of poverty. “I wanted success” she said, “and I didn’t want anything to get in the way of that.”
The name, she says, was funny and catchy. “I am a tithing Christian and still a virgin. I wouldn’t do anything to hurt or tear down anyone. But, I don’t see nothing wrong with having a little fun with the name of my business while I’m trying to make some money.”
“I’m all about people, especially children and young women,” she says. “I purposely opened up across from Kate Ross Apartments because a lot of older people and low income people couldn’t afford to eat out at some of the higher priced restaurants.” She meal prices to $6.00 or less. In discussing future plans, Evans talked about how she plans on giving back to her community. When school starts next year, she wants to give school supplies to needy youth and she plans on opening at 7:00 a.m. so that high school students in the area can purchase a reasonably priced breakfast.
Evans comes across as a mature young lady who is a product of the hip hop culture—and one who has aspirations of success and discipline enough to achieve her goals. She says that her mother and family offer her lots of support and help her to remain grounded. As a matter of fact the business phone is one which is shared with her mother, Shirley Evans, and those who call “Fat Ho Burger” might get the following recorded message: “Growing together in ‘Christ Baptist Church’, Pastor Shirley Evans”.
While Evans is diligently working to make a go of her business, she is getting a lot of support that she hadn’t counted on. She never dreamed that she would receive this much attention because of the name she chose for her restaurant. The media blitz continues to be mind staggering for her. An upcoming engagement for Evans worth following is with the nationally syndicated Tom Joyner Morning Show on April 11.
Without a doubt, 23 year old Lakita Evans came up with a shockingly brilliant marketing ploy when she named her restaurant Fat Ho Burgers. Success, though, depends on several factors, one of which is her ability to satisfactorily handle the large volume of business she is getting.
I am convinced that what Evans wants most is to have a successful business and help others along the way. While the name “Fat Ho Burgers” is not one that I find humor in, the name is not directed at any one person or group.
While the buzz of mixed reviews of her restaurant stirs emotions and arouses curiosity all around her, Lakita Evans is single-mindedly focused on getting her brainchild off the ground. She and her team of workers are busy with the hustle and bustle of keeping up with the continuous flow of traffic driven by the onslaught of media attention that has brought notoriety to Fat Ho Burgers. Customers patiently wait in long lines as their orders are taken and prepared. The menu ranges from burgers to limited soul food choices to some favorite Mexican food. Food items have names such as Supa Fly Ho, Bad MamaJama, Toasty Ho and Tiny Ho Meals.
In this age of hip hop music and culture, those outside of the culture are more offended than those within it. Today, we find many church organizations who have tried to meet the culture halfway. Christian rap is part of the hip hop culture as is the praise dancing. Our society has for the most part been sitting on the sidelines as major record labels and various artists have capitalized on what has become mainstream hip hop culture.
Now that Evans is capitalizing on a visual part of the culture with the name Fat Ho Burgers as opposed to using the term with beats and rhymes, she is being attacked. Does she have the same freedom as rap artists to capitalize on her dream? Would she have garnered the same attention had she named her restaurant “Fatto Burgers” or “Phat Ol’ Burgers?” Marketing is essential to the success of a business and Lakita Evans has taken hip hop marketing to the next level—albeit one that makes many uncomfortable.