From the October 2000 issue of Entrepreneur

Whether you call them buffalo wings or chicken wings-whether they're covered with barbecue sauce or honey mustard-wings aren't just appetizers anymore. Now they're the main attraction at franchises like Wing Zone, Wingstop and Buffalo Wild Wings, to name a few. And we at Entrepreneur have noticed a group of new wing franchises sprouting up in the past few years. "It's the price," says Jerry Wilkerson, president of Franchise Recruiters Ltd., a franchise-executive management firm in Chicago. "The product isn't expensive. They have a limited menu, a limited schedule, limited labor requirements. 'Limited' is the [operative] word." The focus on the wings and the shorter hours wing franchises are open (no breakfast hours) are driving the phenomenon's growth, Wilkerson explains.

Wingstop is one of the franchises at the forefront of the phenomenon-its 18 franchises offer eight wing flavors, plus side dishes. Says Wingstop founder Antonio Swad, "We're focused on elevating the wing to almost an art form." Apparently, it's an art form consumers can pick up on the way home from a soccer game, as around 75 percent of Wingstop sales involve takeout.

Takeout and delivery are the only ways to get Wing Zone's 25 wing flavors. Says Wing Zone co-founder Matthew Friedman, "With so many [two-income] families and people's hectic lifestyles, bringing wings to their door or preparing them quickly for takeout is the wave of the future." Most of Wing Zone's eight franchises are located in or near college towns that have heavy late-night business-with some locations delivering until 3 a.m. "It's definitely a late-night snack for many college students," says Friedman.

And because so many college activities center around sports, wings do well prior to and during major sporting events. "Monday Night Football is incredible for us," says Stephen David, executive vice president and COO of Buffalo Wild Wings, whose franchisees provide sports bar areas offering plenty of TVs and beer.

Buffalo Wild Wings adds sandwiches and salads to its menu to create more of a family atmosphere in its 80-plus franchises and 34 company-owned stores. In fact, takeout, the mainstay of many other wing franchises, accounts for only 5 to 15 percent of Buffalo Wild Wings' overall sales.

Whether it's Wingstop's focus on wings only, the takeout-and-delivery platform of Wing Zone or the sports bar/restaurant atmosphere of Buffalo Wild Wings, there's no doubt wings are creating a buzz in the franchise world. And the National Restaurant Association reports nearly two-thirds of quick-service restaurant operators say poultry entrees are gaining popularity. Or as David points out, "Beer and wings and sports and fun work for everybody."

 

Don't Wing It

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