Wild Wing Café closes restaurants and declares bankruptcy

The Charlotte, N.C.-based casual-dining chicken wing chain sought Chapter 11 debt protection, citing the impact of the pandemic and an inability to restructure its debt. The company closed 15 locations.
Wild Wing Cafe bankruptcy
Wild Wing Cafe has closed 15 underperforming locations. | Photo courtesy of Wild Wing Cafe.

Wild Wing Café filed for bankruptcy this month, citing the impact of the pandemic and an inability to restructure a $12.5 million loan.

The company, which is based in Charlotte, N.C., and operates 24 locations, appears to have closed 15 restaurants this year as part of an ongoing revitalization effort that included the hiring of Mark Cote to be CEO and the addition of industry advisor in Craig Miller.

According to court documents, the company blamed challenges on the pandemic. Mandated store closures, management turnover, historic inflation, supply chain constraints and a tight labor market all made the operational environment challenging.

Wild Wing had a difficult time breaking out of it. Under Cote and Miller, the company closed underperforming restaurants that were “unlikely to recover in an acceptable time horizon.”

Top management was sent to more profitable operations, the company cut corporate overhead and renegotiated some terms with key vendors.

Cote in a filing said that the efforts “are beginning to yield positive results” that should continue. But the inability to restructure that $12.5 million in debt, taken out in 2020 with HomeTrust, led the company to file a Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization.

A handful of restaurant chains have declared bankruptcy this year, such as the fast-casual chain Corner Bakery and some major franchisees. It follows a two-year stretch of brutal inflation that wiped out profit margins and put pressure on operators.

Higher interest rates and reluctant lenders have also made financing difficult to come by.

Wild Wing’s system sales grew 3.2% to $86.8 million, according to data from Restaurant Business sister company Technomic. But its sales remain down 14% compared with 2019.

The company was acquired in 2012 by Axum Capital Partners, including Managing Directors Edna Morris and former Chicago Bears and Carolina Panthers pro football player Muhsin Muhamad. Wild Wing currently operates six corporate restaurants and 18 franchised units.

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