While fellow quick-service chains are searching for answers around traffic, Wingstop is setting records in customer acquisition. 

The chain’s same-store sales skyrocketed 21.6 percent in Q1, virtually all of it fueled by transaction growth. The quarter marked the fast casual’s highest level of new guest acquisition in company history. These customers represent roughly 60 percent of all quick-service occasions, and they had never heard of or tried Wingstop beforehand. They’re higher-income, usually Gen Z or millennial, less likely to have kids, spend more, visit more, over-index to boneless wings, and prefer to engage with brands digitally. 

“I think this is one of those really exciting components to our growth story and really what frames up the runway we have in front of us. This is a group we’ve talked about over the past few years when we started on this journey,” CEO Michael Skipworth said during Wingstop’s Q1 earnings call. 


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Skipworth attributed the growth in guest count to Wingstop’s work around brand awareness. Thanks to big jumps in systemwide sales—37 percent in Q1—the chain was able to advertise during the NFL playoffs and become a presenting sponsor during the NBA’s Wednesday night primetime game. The CEO said Wingstop is making progress in closing the gap in awareness to top quick-service chains, yet there’s “still a ton of runway” ahead of it. He believes the brand is a long way away from saturation as it relates to the company’s presence during live sports. 

With the influx of customers, Wingstop’s digital database has expanded to more than 40 million users. Digital ordering channels mixed a record 68 percent in Q1, which coincides with the introduction of MyWingstop, the brand’s new proprietary tech stack. The launch should be complete by the end of Q2, and Skipworth described early results as “encouraging.” Wingstop expects the initiative to drive conversion, retention rates, and frequency. 

“We’ve invested over the years in our data, in enriching our data, that we believe really gives us a competitive advantage for how we place media, how we market and lean into hyper-personalization, which my Wingstop will be an enabler of that,” Skipworth said. “And so you’ll see us continue to invest there. And then I think as it relates to the rest of the business, I think that’s a little bit of the beauty of our model. We’ve been a brand when we see an opportunity to invest, we’ll put our foot on the gas and position this brand for the long-term and for growth. But the reality is we’re an asset-light model that’s generating a lot of cash flow that puts us in a position to what we believe is deliver outsized shareholder returns.”

AUV is now over $1.9 million, and two-year stacked same-store sales are more than 40 percent. When asked how Wingstop plans to handle this extra volume from new guests, Skipworth simply said, “You just need more chicken.” The CEO doesn’t see a ceiling and isn’t concerned with any throughput issues. In fact, the oldest restaurant in the system has one of the highest volumes and is continuing to grow transactions and comps. And because Wingstop doesn’t need much square footage or a lot of bodies working in the back of house, unit economics are becoming more favorable and attractive for existing and prospective franchisees. 

That’s not to say Wingstop can’t get faster with speed of service. Skipworth noted the company focused much of its technology investments in the past year on the digital ordering experience, and he sees an opportunity to leverage technology over time in the back of house. 

“But obviously, with our low-frequency indulgent occasion, consumers are OK with the speed of service we offer today,” the CEO said. “But as we look out longer-term and as we’re bringing in these new guests into the brand, we do see an opportunity to work on getting faster, which we believe combined with some of the other elements within our strategy could be an enabler to impacting frequency over time, which is a really big opportunity.”

Wingstop is quickly expanding its store base to reach as many consumers as possible. As of March 30, there were 2,279 Wingstop restaurants globally. This included 1,974 restaurants in the U.S. and 305 franchised locations in international markets. The chain debuted a net of 65 stores during Q1. New markets Canada, Puerto Rico, and South Korea are achieving record sales weeks. Because of recent success with global development, Wingstop raised its 2024 outlook to a net of 275 to 295 net new restaurants, up from approximately 270. That implies a unit growth rate well past the chain’s target of 10-plus percent.  

Skipworth recalled a conversation with Wingstop’s Canada partner where the topic of conversation centered around their happiness with returns and their willingness to move past their current agreement of 100 stores across the country. 

“We’re encouraged by how the brand is resonating around the globe,” Skipworth said. “And I wouldn’t say any of the geopolitical or any of the unrest that’s around the globe right now is impacting our progress or the level of interest we have from parties that are looking to grow with the brand. With the strength we’ve talked about over the quarters in the development pipeline, we believe we’ll have a few new deals to talk about over the coming quarters that we’re pretty excited about. That will just further grow and strengthen that pipeline of commitments.”

Wingstop also decided to raise its same-store sales guidance from mid-single-digits to low-double-digit same-store sales growth. Skipworth acknowledged that the fast casual is one of the few increasing its outlook for 2024, considering the less-than-stellar macroeconomic environment. But he assured investors that Wingstop took that backdrop into account and also the anticipated noise around the upcoming presidential election.

With all that ahead, Wingstop still feels good about its double-digit growth prediction.

“Q1 really is a testament to that where you saw us deliver a pretty outsized comp to the rest of the industry that’s talking about consumer pullback and a lot of concern,” Skipworth said. “And we delivered a 21.6 percent same-store sales growth that was almost entirely driven by transaction growth, which I think just speaks to the underlying health of the brand and the effectiveness of the strategy.”

Fast Casual, Finance, Franchising, Growth, Story, Wingstop