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Wingstop rolls its Thighstop virtual brand onto its main menu

After launching the virtual concept in June, Wingstop said it was time to offer the bone-in thighs and Thigh Bites on its regular menu. Thighstop is still available via DoorDash.
Photo courtesy Wingstop

Wingstop’s virtual brand, Thighstop, is fading into the background. But its menu will be more available than ever.

The fast-casual wing chain announced Wednesday it had rolled Thighstop’s offerings of bone-in chicken thighs and boneless Thigh Bites onto its menu of wings, tenders and sides. Thighstop is still available as a virtual brand via DoorDash, but visitors to its website are redirected to Wingstop’s site to place their orders.

The news is not a surprise—Wingstop had previously said it eventually intended to make this move. But it does speak to the overall success of thighs for the chain, both among consumers and for its bottom line as it seeks to mitigate rising wing prices.

“We’ve been pleased with the performance,” Marisa Carona, Wingstop’s chief growth officer, told Restaurant Business. “Thighs are attractive in terms of profitability. This helps us get closer to our whole-bird strategy.”

Carona declined to offer any sales metrics for Thighstop or detail any specific cost benefits for the chain of thighs versus wings.

“The thigh items, they offer an attractive price point for our guests to enlist trial, but also, from an overall cost of goods perspective, they are attractive as well,” she said.

In addition to using more of the chicken, Thighstop has helped Wingstop move toward another of its goals: Digitizing all transactions.

Incentivizing customers to try a digital-only brand with new, exclusive products pushed diners to digital channels. In July, Wingstop reported that its digital sales had increased to 64.5% of all sales, up from 63.7% during the same period the year before.

Wingstop began testing bone-in chicken thighs in seven cities last November. The new protein addition had a minimal impact on kitchen operations, the chain said, since thighs have similar cooking times to wings. Wingstop only had to add one bit of smallware—a new container to differentiate between white and dark meat pieces.

The Addison, Texas-based chain, which has more than 1,600 global units, has added a number of bone-in thigh and Thigh Bites meal options to the menu to encourage diners to try the item, including a five-piece thigh combo or a large-format, 15-piece bone-in thigh pack to feed a crowd.

The chain is launching Thigh Thursday. Those who order through Wingstop’s website or app on Thursdays can add Thigh Bites to an order for $4.49 or try a Thigh Bites Meal for 2 for $13.99.

“It’s a product that we believe is a bit underutilized,” Carona said. “It doesn’t receive as much appreciation as it should.”

Last month, Carona was promoted after serving as VP of strategy and chief of staff to CEO Charlie Morrison. The move was part of a broader shift in Wingstop’s technology leadership structure to include both digital and marketing functions.

The Thighstop rollout was a prime example of how those teams will work together and collaborate, she said.

“At Wingstop, we try not to use the term ‘department,’” she said. “We are all on one team and we try not to operate in silos. It was, I believe, a really innovative and tongue-in-cheek way to bring the product to market … I’m really excited for the Wingstop brand to be bringing macro and micro marketing front and center an in agile and collaborative way.”

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