Wingers wants controlled growth so it can adequately open, support, and create great operations within each restaurant. The chain expects to sign three new franchise development agreements by the end of 2021, and about five to six by the end of 2022. Then afterward, Wingers expects to sign another five to 10 agreements.
The restaurant is garnering interest on the international side as well. For 18 months leading up to the pandemic, the chain worked with a company to become a master licensee for a large international market. The two sides were readying agreements when COVID hit in March 2020. However, Wingers is still in contact with the group, and there’s hope that matters will move forward once conditions allow.
“We primarily are looking and talking to people whose goals are to develop not just one or two stores, but usually three or more locations is our preference,” Slaymaker says. “For certain circumstances we will talk to somebody who might just do one or two stores, and we won't say no to it. But it's not really our target. We really are looking for franchisees and franchisees groups who are hoping to expand and to grow with the brand.”
Operating in a New Environment
Wingers’ performance during COVID only cemented its motivation to reignite franchising. Unlike many full-service chains, Wingers’ off-premises channel always mixed well. The first couple of months were difficult, but once states began opening more in the summer, sales returned to nearly flat. And throughout the year and into the early part of 2021, Wingers grew sales anywhere from 9 to 12 percent. Takeout represented roughly 40 percent of sales.
During the week of March 15, 40 percent of the system posted sales records. Conventional wisdom suggests the increase was partly due to guests returning for dine-in, but takeout actually accounted for 50 percent of sales that week.
“We've done well through this period,” Slaymaker says. “And I think the way that consumer habits have been changed as we come out of the pandemic, I really think it puts us even in a more unique position for a full-service restaurant because we probably think that we're going to have a unique hybrid in-store dining model combined with a really, really strong takeout, third-party delivery model that makes up somewhat of a unique position for our brand right now.”