Skyrocketing demand has caused chicken-wing prices to rise 60 percent within the last few months, forcing brands like Wing Zone to get creative in keeping up profitability.
“I think that the demand has increased with more wing places opening up and the product gaining popularity,” says Wing Zone’s founder and CEO, Matt Friedman. “No one really wants a wing price increase or a menu price increase, but when wing prices have gone up 60 percent, it’s inevitable.”
Though Wing Zone has increased prices on the menu to account for higher prices, Friedman says, other tactics such as unique marketing, promotional specials on wings, and new product introduction have been successful in bolstering business.
“We’re finding that by diversifying the menu into other chicken products, we’re able to kind of spread out some of the costs,” he says.
Friedman says Wing Zone has invested more in its boneless-wing line and worked with its supplier, Tyson, to assure reasonable costs.
“We’ve really separated our boneless and original wing,” he says. “We charge a premium for the original wing. … We’re currently with Tyson on all of our chicken. We’ve contracted that product for one year, so we’ve been able to stabilize that, and [boneless wings are] much more profitable for us than original wings.”
In addition to its commitment to boneless wings, Wing Zone recently launched Skinny Dippers, another boneless chicken option. And this summer Wing Zone is looking to enhance its salad line and launch four chicken wraps, which Friedman says should also be more profitable than the original chicken wing.
Friedman expects that as chicken consumption continues to increase, wings will remain costly.
“The way that the wing market works, typically [the prices are] the highest around Super Bowl … and March Madness, then it comes down in the summer,” he says, noting that he’s already seeing prices come down a bit. “But I think at least as we project out into 2013 [and] 2014, chicken is becoming an expensive protein. And I don’t think that’s going to change.”
Friedman says Wing Zone’s product diversification and wing promotions are proving successful, and despite prices, business remains strong.
“Even though wing prices are up, business is growing, and we’re adding a lot of stores and growing into different markets, so it’s a good position to be in,” he says.
By Laurel Nakkas