All The Ways Wingstop Is Killing It Right Now

The chicken wing chain is a top performer in the U.S. Here's why.

If there were a fast food chicken wing hall of fame, Wingstop would be celebrating its induction right about now. The chain is thriving in 2024, and as Restaurant Business reports, the secret to its success doesn't just lie in the sauce. 

Wingstop's same-store sales increased 21.2% in the fourth quarter of 2023 compared to the same period in 2022, and same-store sales increased 18.3% for the whole year, per the latest financial report. On the latest earnings call, Wingstop leadership shared multiple insights on the business and what's currently propelling the brand forward.

Wingstop’s success, explained

The company capitalized on those stellar sales by growing its footprint at an accelerated rate in Q4. Wingstop opened one new location almost every day and finished out the year with 13% overall growth. And the success of each individual location stands out: the average Wingstop location generates 70% cash on cash return, which means franchisees can pay off the restaurant in less than two years. This makes it more likely that franchisees will continue opening up more locations.

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Crucially, Wingstop has also ventured into something outside of wings: chicken sandwiches. Wingstop added chicken sandwiches to the menu in 2022, and offered the unique customization option to add any of its 12 wing sauces to the chicken breast filet. The brand's leadership noted on the call that the sandwiches are largely what drove its high sales numbers and allowed Wingstop to depend less on just wings—a smart move, considering the way chicken wing prices have fluctuated in recent years.

Sales numbers aside, the sandwiches also opened up Wingstop to a different customer base. Restaurant Business notes that customers who purchase chicken sandwiches tend to have higher incomes, visit restaurants more often, and spend more on boneless poultry.

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"There's 2.4 billion chicken sandwich occasions in the U.S. annually," Wingstop CEO Michael Skipworth said on the latest earnings call. "So, we think we're just scratching the surface there."

But even if the public still thinks of Wingstop primarily as a wing place, that works out well for the brand, too. Although Popeyes new wings have been a big hit since their introduction in late 2023, Wingstop doesn't see this new competition in the market as a doom-and-gloom scenario.

"When other brands promote wings, it's actually a benefit to our business," Skipworth explained on the call. "If consumers are aware of Wingstop, there's not a decision tree when they want wings. They go to Wingstop."

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