Neither of us came from a background of restaurateurs. Starting out, we were simply a couple of college students in the same fraternity at the University of Florida who liked to eat food. Both of us were in business-focused majors, and we took a look at the quick-serve market in our college area and realized the wing concept was lacking. We unofficially launched Wing Zone in our fraternity house kitchen in 1991. We operated out of it for five months or so before having to shut down due to legal reasons, but in that time we saw that the buzz and demand were there.
Being a true start-up, we really didn’t think about the big picture at first, but we had a passion for entrepreneurship. We had an 18-month break between closing down the frat-house kitchen and opening our first legitimate storefront in the fall of 1993. That period gave us a chance to consider how we wanted to model our business. We looked at different financing options, graduated, and knew that we could perfect this concept. After opening our fourth store, we realized that we had something real, tangible, and scalable as a business.
We took an aggressive approach when it came to the business. By doing so, we made plenty of mistakes on our path to building the brand, but we always embraced the challenges of quick service. We launched our franchise program in 1999, and that was huge for us. Being able to help others be successful is truly a rewarding experience and perhaps the best part about what we do. We love to teach people and have a saying around Wing Zone: “Motivate and educate.”
As founders, we never wanted to build the brand and leave it once it reached a sustainable level. We’re still involved on a daily basis. This business has to be a passion of yours to be successful. If you don’t live it, breathe it, and dream it, people are going to sniff you out. While it’s important to adapt and change to certain shifts, like utilizing technology or social media to build your brand, which we do, it’s just as important to not deviate from core concepts.
Adam: Thai Chili boneless wings with Blackened Voodoo Fries.
Matt: Hand-breaded Chicken Tender Box with Honey-Q dipping flavor.
Adam: I’m originally from New York, so New York–style pizza.
Matt: A great, classic burger. Maybe with a fried egg on it.
Both: Florida Gators.
Matt: I like to study and read up on other entrepreneurs, like Bill Rosenberg from Dunkin’ Donuts and Glen Bell from Taco Bell. I love people that start from humble beginnings and have built an empire.
Both: Keep your concepts simple.