Emerging Brands

Wing Zone debuts new concept with hot chicken

The new Wing Zone Hot Chicken and Wings is described as a next-generation variation designed for off-premise, with hot chicken tenders and a sandwich along with new flavors for bone-in wings.
Wing Zone hot chicken
Wing Zone is jumping on the hot chicken bandwagon with new offerings. |Photo courtesy of Wing Zone.

Wing Zone is veering into the hot chicken space with a new concept designed to up the brand’s boneless game.

The Las Vegas-based wings concept, which is owned by Capriotti’s, on Friday debuted the new Wing Zone Hot Chicken and Wings, a restaurant with a revamped menu and updated design. The goal is to capture the evolving tastes and preferences of customers, which includes a focus on the off-premise experience and delivery, said Ashley Morris, Wing Zone’s CEO.

The next-gen Wing Zone, for example, will feature two Nashville Hot Chicken menu items: Hot Chicken Tenders and Hot Chicken Sandwiches. Both are available with four spice levels, ranging from no spice to hot.

Of course, there are also bone-in wings on the menu. The new concept offers a bigger range of dry rub seasonings, which make for a better product when the wings are ordered for delivery and not consumed immediately, the company said. The dry rubs include new flavors, like Lemon Pepper Tajin, Spicy Thai, Nashville Hot and Salt and Vinegar. Guests can also order those wings with a selection of sauces, as they can at the mother brand.

The new concept also includes more sides, like cole slaw, mac and cheese and tater tots that can be ordered with various toppings.

Nashville Hot Chicken has long become a mainstream menu offering, but the move takes a swing at competitors, like the rapidly growing Dave’s Hot Chicken, with its spicy multi-layered flavor options, as well as chicken-tender specialist Raising Cane’s, which offers no spicy flavors.

Company officials did not respond to questions about growth plans for the hot chicken variation. Wing Zone has more than 30 locations across the U.S. and 60 internationally. The goal is to reach 200 “profitable” units by 2025.

Wing Zone is among a growing number of chicken chains beefing up their boneless offerings, a move that allows operators to lock in pricing and avoid the volatility of the bone-in spot market.

Bone-in wing prices skyrocketed during Covid, in part because of demand. Operators, however, say commodity inflation is easing this year and boneless chicken is less affected by price fluctuations. Boneless wings are cheaper to produce at scale—chickens only have two wings per bird, while boneless products can use both breast and thigh meat.

Wingstop, for example, last year introduced a new line of chicken sandwiches that have served as a gateway to bring new customers to that brand, particularly at lunch, and the move to more boneless chicken has helped lower food costs. Boneless chicken at that brand now accounts for 43% of sales, which is the highest it has ever been.

KFC is also seeing boneless offerings thrive. Last quarter, the global chain introduced chicken nuggets and sold 100 million of them in the first eight weeks.

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