Chicken wing orders soar as high as game-winning field goals during football season, and there seem to be more restaurants offering them than ever before. But consumers have their favorites, according to a recent survey by Restaurant Business sister company, Technomic.
Whether watching the game while dining in, sitting at home or at a tailgate party, these are the 10 chains that fans choose to satisfy wing cravings, in descending order, starting with No. 10. Technomic’s ranking includes fast casual, casual dining and sports bar concepts.
10. Little Caesars
Known more for its pizza than its wings, 7.4% of the respondents in the survey would choose Little Caesar’s to satisfy their wing cravings. Among their favorite wing flavors are Garlic Parmesan, Buffalo and Barbecue. Customers particularly enjoy ordering the value-priced wings with pizza and Little Caesars’ signature crazy bread as a winning combo for game days.
9. TGI Fridays
TGI Fridays is famous for its Jack Daniel’s barbecue sauce and glaze that appears on a number of menu items—including chicken wings. That convinced 9.4% of respondents to rank the casual-dining chain tops for craveability, with several pointing out the whiskey flavor profile in particular. But callouts are also given to Hot, Buffalo, Garlic Parmesan and boneless wings, as well as the menu’s variety. Customers here seem to order lots of shareables, including loaded potato skins, spinach cheese dip and shrimp—along with wings, with beer and cocktails on the side.
On the fast-casual side, 10.4% of consumers ranked Zaxby’s wings as their top pick. Zaxby’s is a chicken specialist and serves up both boneless and bone-in wings with several sauces. The chain’s signature Zax sauce is a draw for some fans, one of whom pointed out the “traditional wing dipped in Buffalo garlic sauce and extra Zax sauce” as their go-to, while another said “… the best wings that you can get anywhere; unique taste and consistently fresh and delicious.” Honey Mustard and Buffalo were also cited as craveable flavors.
7. Dave & Busters
With plenty of screens and a sports vibe, eatertainment chain Dave & Busters gets its share of football followers to cheer on their teams. The wings appeal to 10.4% of those surveyed, who order them up along with mozzarella sticks, fried pickles, mini hot dogs, fries, pretzel baskets and drinks. Singled out are the “amazing hot wings” flavored in Nashville style, as well as BBQ, Smoked and Buffalo wings. “Their wings are seasoned to perfection,” praised a respondent.
6. Pizza Hut
Like Little Caesars, Pizza Hut is primarily a pizza destination, but 10.5% of consumers gave high scores to the chain’s wings. One aficionado is partial to the Lemon Pepper Chicken Wings that “you can’t get anywhere else like Pizza Hut does it.” Others point to the Buffalo Burnin’ Hot chicken wings and boneless Garlic Parmesan wings as favorites. A respondent summed it up by saying “most places have either mild or spicy, but these hit just right to me … right down the middle.”
5. Twin Peaks
A magnet for male football buffs and their buddies, Twin Peaks was rated high for wing craveability by 14.3% of consumers. One respondent likes the “very huge variety of wing sauces and the pickle basket,” while another enjoys the opportunity to customize wing type and flavor. Specific flavors that rise to the top include Jalapeno Butter, Nashville Hot and Smoked wings, but there is also demand to “bring back the Korean Volcano Sauce.”
4. Beef ‘O’ Brady’s
Beef ‘O’ Brady’s bills itself as a “family sports restaurant” and chicken wings are one of the top-selling shareables. Of those surveyed, 23.3% rated the wings here as craveable, citing attributes such as “their chicken wings are crispy not fatty, and are cooked thoroughly and seasoned to perfection” and “wings they are to die for.” Respondents also single out the variety of sauces as being somewhat different from others and boneless wings that are nice and tender.
A popular destination for the football crowd, 41.3% of consumers crave Hooter’s wings. (Although one respondent broadened the reply to “boobs and wings.”) But back to chicken wings, differentiators include the spices and flavors used in cooking the wings that are unique to Hooter’s. Buffalo Hot is cited often, with one commenter saying “the best hot wings ever.” In a true testament to craveability, another said “I love the wings here and even writing this I can smell the wings.”
Not surprisingly, a concept with “wing” in its name landed in the No. 2 spot, with 52.5% of respondents rating Wingstop high for craveability. The wide selection of sauces and seasonings make the wings here stand out, but favorite flavors were not unanimous. Lemon Pepper, Hickory Smoked BBQ, Garlic Parmesan, Hawaiian Boneless, Spicy Korean Boneless, Mango Habanero, Louisiana Dry Rub and Atomic Wings are all mentioned by respondents. One elaborated on why Atomic Wings are craveable by saying “they are hotter than the rest of restaurants.”
1. Buffalo Wild Wings
Buffalo Wild Wings landed in the top spot, with 53.9% of consumers awarding high marks to this wing-and-football-centric chain. The huge assortment of sauces and special rubs get a lot of recognition, but one consumer also said “the only place … that knows how traditional Buffalo chicken wings should look and taste.” Granted, the brand has “Buffalo” in its name, but others craved choices like Salt and Vinegar, Blazing, Thai Curry, Jammin’ Jalapeno and Asian Zing wings. “These are wing sauce flavors only found at Buffalo Wild Wings,” a respondent sums up.
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