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Wingstop opens a cash-less, seat-less restaurant

The wing chain’s new “restaurant of the future” will allow the brand to test equipment and layouts to maximize its off-premise business.
Wingstop
Photo courtesy Wingstop

Wingstop on Thursday announced the opening of a cash-less, seat-less prototype location—dubbed the “restaurant of the future”—that will allow it to test further off-premise-focused innovations.

The 1,300-square-foot Dallas restaurant, about 400-square-feet smaller than a typical Wingstop, is focused entirely on digital transactions.

There are no seats. Dining rooms, never a huge draw for the fast casual, have diminished even further in importance for Wingstop during the pandemic.

Wingstop kitchen

Back of house in Wingstop's "restaurant of the future." / Photo courtesy Wingstop

In November, Wingstop CEO Charlie Morrison told investors that only about 13% of the chain’s more than 1,500 locations had their dining rooms open.  

“So that’s a good indication to us that we can further simplify our model by reducing the size of the dining rooms and leveraging the strong delivery business that we’re seeing,” Morrison said at the time.

Cash will not be used in the new location, with the goal of digitizing all transactions. QR codes are posted in the restaurant, to aid digital orders.

The design is optimized for carryout customers and delivery drivers, the chain said.

The new restaurant also emphasizes sustainability, with Energy Star equipment and grease extraction. Workers will sport the chain’s new sustainable uniforms, made from recycled water bottles.

Wingstop

Wingstop's "restaurant of the future" kitchen design. / Photo courtesy Wingstop

The pared-down unit serves Wingstop’s full menu.

Wingstop said it will use the prototype, which is near its headquarters in Addison, Texas, “for rapid testing of new equipment and layouts” to enhance carryout and delivery operations. The restaurant is “modularly optimized,” Wingstop said, and will serve as a blueprint for future units.

“A glimpse into our Lovers Lane location is a glimpse into the future of Wingstop—focused on 100% digital transactions, seamless back-of-house operations, ongoing flavor innovation, and a business model centered around our fans, who love to dine off-premise with friends, while gaming, or just about anywhere you can think of," Chief Growth Officer Marisa Carona said in a statement. "We're excited to continue optimizing the size and layout of our restaurants as we drive toward our vision of becoming a Top 10 Global Restaurant Brand.”

Wingstop’s sales soared in the early days of the pandemic, as cooped-up families turned to inexpensive comfort foods with broad appeal. More recently, though, the chain has been hit with skyrocketing food and labor costs, forcing it to raise prices about 10% in 2021. A smaller, more efficient restaurant design that eliminates the little-used dining area could make up for some of those cost pressures.

Around the country, a number of chains are deleting dining rooms from their new designs to take advantage of the consumer shift to off-premise dining.

This week, Portillo’s opened its first restaurant without a dining room. The first Portillo’s Pick Up unit, located in Joliet, Ill., features three drive-thru lanes.

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