Why International Markets are Key to Wingstop's Growth Goals

    The brand's president of international, Nicolas Boudet, discusses the role of overseas expansion as Wingstop seeks to become a top 10 global restaurant company.

    Franchising | December 2, 2020 | Sam Oches
    Wingstop aims for international expansion to become global restaurant icon.
    Wingstop / Jason Kindig
    Nicolas Boudet oversees Wingstop's international expansion; to date the brand has just shy of 200 international locations.
     

    Wingstop’s success in the U.S. during the pandemic has spoken for itself. Same-store sales gains of 9.9 percent, 31.9 percent, and 25.4 in quarters one, two, and three, respectively, of 2020 have shown that brand is impervious to the negative effects of COVID-19—and, indeed, might be strengthened by them, as Wingstop had one of the industry’s most impressive off-premises strategies in place even before the pandemic.

    But the company is hungry for more. In fact, its leadership team has one primary goal in mind: becoming a top 10 global restaurant company. And to get there, it’s set its sights on having 3,000 domestic and 3,000 international units.

    READ MORE: How Wingstop Became a 'Category of One'

    Considering the fact that Wingstop has just over 1,300 domestic locations today and shy of 200 international units, the bulk of its expansion moving forward will be overseas. And Nicolas Boudet, Wingstop’s president of international, says the opportunities for that international growth are near limitless.

    Still, Boudet says Wingstop has committed a lot of time and research in the last few years to understanding what makes the brand so successful in certain markets, and then replicating that success in similar markets.

    “We found that we do operate better in what we call a developed type of economy, where there is that higher disposable income from the consumer side, where the ability to operate a small concept that is very efficient and very focused around chicken wings allows us to not have a significant labor pool to be able to operate stores,” he says.

    To date, Wingstop’s biggest international market is Mexico, where it has nearly 100 locations and operates as more of a full-service sports bar. It also has a presence in Asia, Australia, and Central and South America. Boudet says Western Europe is a major focus moving forward, particularly France and the U.K.

    The company will in-fill these developed markets for the next decade or so, Boudet adds, before branching out into other countries.

    Wingstop’s major advantage in its international expansion is the fact that chicken is massively popular all over the world, in particular bone-in chicken. And Wingstop’s menu isn’t very complicated, Boudet points out, meaning it resonates in nearly every culture.

    “We are a chicken-wing focused concept, and that has beauty to it, and the beauty is that we’re singularly focused on what we know to do best, and we do it well over and over again,” he says.

    Plus there’s the fact that Wingstop packages its menu items in such a way that it highlights chicken as more of a center-of-the-plate item rather than just an appetizer or snack.

    “Our menu is really built around group and individual meals, and the ability to position the brand around the meal-replacement option is also what makes us successful and very unique,” he says.

    To listen to the full interview with Boudet as part of our Wingstop Week series, stream the Fast Forward podcast above or wherever you listen to podcasts. You can also click here for part one, a conversation with Wingstop CMO Christina Clarke, and here for part two, an interview with the brand’s senior vice president of people Donnie Upshaw.