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As I write this, my beloved Chicago Cubs are enjoying an unprecedented renaissance under groovy manager Joe Maddon. As a lifelong Cubs fan, decades of shattered hopes remind me to enjoy the moment and not worry about what comes next. But what amazes me about this team is not so much that they are winning but how they are winning. And it strikes me that their success this summer contains a few lessons applicable to the foodservice industry.


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The National Restaurant Association reported that business was soft in August. Foodservice hiring remained strong last month. McDonald’s makes major changes in their Canadian operations. Dunkin’ Donuts says slowing sales are the result of higher prices that the chain raised in response to increasing minimum wage requirements. These stories and a whole lot more, This Week in Foodservice.



Chain Innovators: Wing Stop

Wing Stop is flying high with a concept that does 75 percent to 80 percent of its sales in takeout and 92 percent from three items — wings, fries and beverages — out of kitchens that measure 600 sq. ft.

Wing StopThat model, says CEO Jim Flynn, hasn't left a lot of room — or need — for change. But select strategic moves during the past few years have helped keep the company on a growth track. First, Wing Stop expanded its hours from dinner only to lunch, which now makes up 20 percent to 30 percent of sales. Second, it added boneless wings, which now comprise 20 percent of wing sales.

Wing Stop is now shaking things up with Gliders, its first-ever sandwich product. Presented as a 90-day limited time offer, Gliders are 3-oz. portions of boneless chicken breast meat coated in seasoned breading, fried and served on a fresh-baked yeast roll with pickles. They can be served plain or tossed in any of Wingstop's sauces and can be ordered a la carte in two, four or six sandwiches per order, as well as in a two-piece Glider Combo with fries and drink.

"In tests we found that a sandwich was more friendly than wings to a lot of customers who otherwise might represent a veto vote," Flynn says. "And it's better for lunch for many people than wings. If it goes well, we'll likely add it to the menu." Prepared in the same fryers as wings, no new equipment was needed to launch the Gliders, he adds.

And there's more in store. The chain plans to add wraps, twister-style fries and salads, as well as a new concept prototype. "We're in the process of testing two or three new Wingstop Sports restaurants," Flynn says. "They're about 2,400 sq. ft. compared to our typical 1,500-sq.-ft. Wingstop unit. It's a way to extend the brand that we think makes a lot of sense."

Fast Facts

  • Year founded: 1994
  • Headquarters: Richardson, Texas
  • Menu specialties: Fresh, made-to-order wings with nine proprietary sauces, fresh-cut fries
  • Service model: Fast-casual
  • Service options: Dine in, takeout
  • Units: 480 in the U.S. and Mexico (95 percent are franchised)
  • 2010 sales: $344 million
  • 2010 growth: Revenue increased by 8.9 percent and the number of units grew by 8 percent
  • 2011 projected growth: Increase revenue by 8 percent, units by 10 percent
  • Key expansion markets: Nationwide, with a focus on Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, Midwest
  • Typical location: In-line shopping centers
  • Average unit size: 1,600 sq. ft.; 20–40 seats
  • Average kitchen space: 600 sq. ft.
  • Average covers per day: 300
  • Average check: $14
  • Total equipment investment per unit: $73,000–$128,500 (not including POS system)
  • Total unit cost: $263,550–$616,946 (includes franchise fee, equipment, etc.)

Key Players

  • Chief Executive Officer: Jim Flynn
  • Chief Operating Officer: Bill Knight
  • Chief Marketing Officer and EVP of Purchasing/R&D: Andy Howard
  • Chief Development Officer: Wes Jablonski
  • Chief Financial Officer: Lance Loshelder
  • Smallwares & Equipment Dealers: Tri-Mark Raygal and Concept Services
  • Food Distributors: Peco, Pilgrim's, Wada Farms
  • Architect: John B. McDonald, AIA
  • Design: Kathy Diamond Design Associates
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