Earlier in May, Wingstop revealed U.S. same-store sales rose just 1.2 percent in Q1, its worst year-over-year performance since COVID arrived. CEO Michael Skipworth owed the unfavorable performance to lapping federal stimulus checks, customers opting for dine-in occasions, and inflation pressuring consumers' wallets. Comps in the second quarter are expected to be flat, with April seeing negative sales and improvement in May and June.
Skipworth remained optimistic, and part of that is because Wingstop has a plan to draw customers back in with value and menu innovation, and the testing of chicken sandwiches appears to fulfill that objective.
"I do think [menu innovation's] an area where we lean in and can create new news, if you will, for guests, and drive in occasion and give them a reason to come into Wingstop and enjoy that unique flavor experience that we offer," Skipworth said during the chain's Q1 earnings call. " ... We continue to have opportunities around menu innovation, whether it's through flavor or other proteins as an idea to look into and explore, but a lot of levers for us to pull."
Prior to Monday, Wingstop's biggest menu innovation was the release of virtual brand Thighstop in June 2021. The concept was introduced as part of the chain's strategy to use more parts of the bird and mitigate bone-in wing price inflation. Thighs began as a delivery-only product, but eventually made their way onto in-restaurant menus nationwide. The item is mixing in the low-single digits, and Skipworth said thighs continues to "to play a nice role and how we're thinking about and executing that supply chain strategy."
The chicken sandwich news comes as Wingstop feels significant wing deflation. The spot market for wings reached a record $3.22 per pound last year, but now, it’s decreased to $1.64 per pound.