Wingstop 2023

Sep 11, 2023 | Insights, Restaurant Research

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Executive Summary

Wingstop is the only $1B+ national chain with an exclusive specialization in the chicken wing category and its successful brand positioning has driven a share gain of domestic $1B+ chicken chain segment sales from 4.5% in 2011 to 16.1% by 2022. Its “Wing Expert” brand attributes include: cooked-to-order chicken wings (in a deep fryer without the use of heat lamps or microwaves) that are hand-sauced & tossed in a choice of 12 flavors ranked by heat; freshly-prepared sides including its hand-cut, seasoned fries (made daily from whole Russet potatoes) and fresh, hand-cut carrots & celery with ranch & bleu cheese dips that are made in-house daily; and convenient off-premise/digital access. Numerous bundling options (individual/combo meals/family packs) facilitates usage across a broad spectrum of occasions (quick carry-out snack, family dinners or party size) for prices comparable to cost effective pizza deals. Notably, the chain’s successful new chicken sandwich is unique in that it is offered in 12 flavors. Wingstop’s brand awareness has increased along with substantial growth in system sales (including a +44% cumulative comp increase from 2019 – 2022 and a low-double-digit gross new unit development rate) and associated ad spend. Resultantly, the brand has successfully extended its market reach beyond its core low-income demo to a younger, slightly more affluent and less ethnically diverse habitual QSR consumer over the last couple of years. Marketing efficiency benefits from the past shift from local spend to national TV coupled with a digital engagement rate that far exceeds the industry average – Wingstop enjoys a 65% digital sales mix and a 35MM database of unique digital users. While the chain benefits from a significant decline in wing prices over the last 1.5 years, bone-in wing cost volatility continues to represent the chain’s most significant risk and it is notable that despite these wing price declines and a system best AUV, Wingstop still struggles with its store-level food and EBITDAR margins. In conclusion, while the chain’s top-line performance has been remarkable so far, work remains to convince customers to extend their usage of the chain beyond a special bone-in treat to more frequent purchases of high margin boneless products sufficient to drive AUVs and store-level margins to levels appropriate for a world class wings player.

Wingstop Sep 2023 Market Share

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