From the June 2000 issue of Startups

While students at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Matt Friedman and Adam Scott knew they wanted to start a business but weren't sure exactly what they'd do. Inspiration came to them in 1991 in the form of buffalo wings.

In the town of Gainesville, say the partners, wings on delivery were pretty hard to come by. Knowing how much they and their fellow students liked buffalo wings, Friedman and Scott felt this would be the perfect business to start.

After setting up shop in the kitchen of their fraternity house, Friedman and Scott began taking orders for buffalo wings and making on-campus deliveries. "We laugh about it a lot because we didn't exactly know what we were doing, but we learned very quickly," Friedman says of those early days.

And their idea caught on. "It was something that we felt the town needed," says Friedman, now 29. "Based on the response of the customers, the amount that the phone rang, obviously other people felt the same way."

That response led the pair to eventually open two Wing Zone stores in Gainesville before moving their operations to Atlanta and opening five more restaurants in Georgia and Florida. Each location offers 25 flavors of buffalo wings and a selection of sandwiches and salads that are available for delivery or carry-out.

In 1997, the first Wing Zone franchise opened in Columbia, South Carolina. Mark Ward, a college friend who had worked in the winged duo's first locations in Florida, was the company's first franchisee. "I was already familiar with the concept," notes Ward, "and I saw how easily the stores were growing and the fact that there wasn't anyone else out there...who had the concept that we have." Wing Zone currently has franchises in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Austin, Texas; Ward is opening a second franchise of his own in Raleigh, North Carolina, this summer. Sales for 1999 hit $2.5 million and 2000 should bring in $4.5 million.

Even though Wing Zone is now focused on the south, the company is seeking young franchisees to open new markets everywhere. "We are primarily targeting college markets at this time, so someone in his or her early to late 20s is probably our ideal franchisee," says Scott, 26, noting Wing Zone's hours (typically 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. and lunch on weekends) and lower franchise costs, which start at $100,000, including the franchise fee and everything needed to open the store.

Make The Call

Wing Zone: (877) 333-WING, www.wingzone.com