Wingstop's Success Proves Customers Love To Customize

The chicken sandwiches sold like hotcakes, and we have a good idea why.

Last week, we had the chance to taste the latest fast food innovation, the Wingstop Chicken Sandwich. Or at least we got to sample 25% of it, having tasted only three of the dozen varieties that hit the menu. The clever offering (which Wingstop confirms will be a permanent nationwide addition to the lineup) features a fried chicken breast filet tossed in any one of the brand's 12 wing sauces, your choice. Topped with pickles and slapped onto a bun, this latest chicken sandwich ipretty well worth the $5.49 you'll spend on it.

Right now, though, you can't spend any money on it, because Wingstop is completely sold out of chicken sandwiches.

As a rep for the brand tells The Takeout, the rollout was a smash hit for Wingstop, with sales of over 1 million sandwiches in six days—a supply meant to last four weeks. This amounted to a sales performance 300% better than the company was projecting "based on market test results." The rep confirmed that the most popular orders were Original Hot, Lemon Pepper, and Hot Honey, a limited-time flavor.

"The launch of our Wingstop Chicken Sandwich in 12 flavors exceeded our expectations on all fronts," said Michael Skipworth, Wingstop CEO, in a statement shared with The Takeout. "Our craveable product and viral campaign drove unprecedented, extraordinary demand from both our core guests as well as brought a lot of new Wingstop fans into the brand. Thanks to strong, trusted relationships with supplier partners, we anticipate having chicken sandwich supply back in restaurants soon, so fans and new guests alike can get their hands on their new favorite chicken sandwich."

Now, do I suspect that some of this is mere puffery on the part of Wingstop? I just might. Is it possible that other fast food brands are taking their cues from Popeyes and ever so slightly manufacturing a scarcity to match the Great Chicken Sandwich Wipeout of 2019? Unclear, but not out of the question—especially when you consider the fact that Wingstop is encouraging fans to stay updated on sandwich's return by (you guessed it!) signing up for a Wingstop account.

Whatever the case, Wingstop also claims that after releasing the chicken sandwich, the chain saw "one of our highest single transaction days on record" the following Friday. That's impressive, even if it wasn't specifically tied to the sandwich release (it was, after all, week 1 of the college football season). And it might point to a growing desire among fast food customers: We want the ability to customize an order based on what we know a fast food joint has on hand.

Our Chipotle-habituated tastes understand fast food operations to be assembly lines of ingredients, and Wingstop's chicken sandwich, to which any wing sauce can be added, perfectly caters to that understanding. Not all restaurants can function this way, especially if some specialty ingredient (like the Doritos atop a Friendly's chopped cheese, say) can't be rung up as an a la carte item. But when customers can feel like their culinary imagination is being rewarded, they'll come back to spend their money again and again. At Wingstop, that might mean returning a dozen times to sample every flavor. That is, as soon as the damn sandwiches are back in stock.