Financing

Despite pandemic, Wingstop reports same-store sales jump of nearly 10%

Preliminary sales results show the wing chain was well-prepared to pivot to a completely off-premise operation.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Despite a small slowdown fueled by the coronavirus, Wingstop’s same-store sales nevertheless grew 8.9% during the last two weeks of March, according to preliminary financial results released by the fast-casual chain Tuesday.

What’s more, Wingstop has continued to open new units, with a total of 28 net openings for the quarter.

The company’s sales numbers provide evidence that restaurant brands that are able to leverage their existing off-premise infrastructure stand a better chance of weathering the upheaval caused by COVID-19.

Wingstop is offering free delivery through the end of April, as well as an enhanced compensation program for employees at company-owned stores that could grant them as much as $150 in extra pay each week.

The chain closed its dining rooms on March 16 to help stem the spread of the virus and drew down $16 million on its credit to increase its cash on hand.

“Off-premise dining has historically been one of our differentiators and the Wingstop team is humbled by the trust our guests have placed in us as we continue to serve during this challenging time,” the company said in a statement. “Our business was well-positioned for the transition to 100% off-premise dining that has resulted from COVID-19.”

Before the respiratory virus appeared in the U.S., carryout and delivery accounted for roughly 80% of the Dallas-based chain’s sales, with about 40% of orders coming in via digital channels, the company said.

The company reported preliminary domestic systemwide same-store sales growth of 9.9% for its Q1 ended March 28, a slowdown from 11.5% early in the quarter, pre-COVID-19.

In addition to solid traffic, Wingstop is taking advantage of low wing prices.

“A bit of good fortune for our domestic business comes in the increased supply of chicken breast meat needed to support grocery stores where volumes have escalated, which has resulted in excess supply of jumbo chicken wings which is in turn creating a deflationary wing price,” the company said in a statement. “This provides an immediate cash benefit to our brand partners as we purchase wings off the spot market weekly.”

Wingstop has 1,253 U.S. units, of which just 32 are company owned.

In January, it reported its 16th straight year of same-store sales growth.

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