- Restaurants nationwide are facing a tight supply of chicken wings.
- The scarcity is due to soaring demand, plus the Texas winter storms, which impacted flocks.
- One restaurant CEO said wing prices are the highest they’ve been in his 33 years in the business.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Chicken wings are the latest hot-ticket item to face tight supply as a result of the pandemic.
Restaurants across the nation are reporting a scarcity of wings and rising costs per pound, the result of a spike in take-out orders and the unprecedented winter storms in Texas. It’s leading some restaurants to raise prices for customers, and others to worry that they won’t be able to meet demand.
The tight supply is being felt acutely in Buffalo, New York – the home of the humble chicken wing.
Duff’s, a wing restaurant known for its extremely hot wings with legions of diehard fans, told Buffalo’s CBS affiliate WIVB that its seen a spike in take-out orders – about 60% of one location’s business comes from take-out orders, versus 40% prior to the pandemic.
Jeff Feather, a manager at a Duff’s location, told WIVB that the restaurant is having a difficult time securing enough cases of flats and drumsticks to get through the weekend.
“Say we order 50 cases of wings to get us through the weekend. We might only get 30 of them delivered. So we’re getting about two-thirds of what we typically order,” he said. “There are some days our food reps will call us and say we might not be able to get you anything.”
Feather told WIVB that wings cost the restaurant $3 per pound, and each case weighs roughly 18kg.
While a chicken wing shortfall is likely to hit Buffalo hard, other regions nationwide are noticing a wing deficiency as well. Moe Stevenson, Virginia-based restaurant owner, told WIVB that the cost of drums – a wing shape some people seem to prefer – has increased threefold since last year to the tune of an extra $1,200 per week. Stevenson called the price increase “outrageous.”
“I thought it would drop off after the Super Bowl, like it usually does, March Madness, it’s done,” he said. “No, it’s gone up.”
Dan Ponton, CEO of an Ohio-based wing chain called Roosters, told the Dayton Daily News that he hasn’t noticed a shortage of other chicken parts, like breasts or tenders – but wings are a different story.
“The prices are the highest they have ever been in the 33 years I’ve been doing this,” he said.
Wings are ‘pandemic-proof’
Tom Super, a spokesperson for the National Chicken Council, told Insider by email that while wing supplies are tight, he wouldn’t call the situation a shortage. Super blamed the short supply on the winter storms that struck Texas earlier this year.
“Chicken producers are doing everything they can to overcome the devastating impact of Mother Nature when she inflicted the once-in-a-lifetime winter storm on Texas and nearby states – major chicken producing regions,” Super said. “It will take time and effort to eventually replace the impacted hatchery supply flocks in that region.”
Super said that chicken production has remained steady in 2020 and described the deep-fried delicacy as “pandemic proof”: Most wing joints or pizza places already had takeout infrastructure in place, so they were able to continue operating for most of last year.
Wings also travel well, they’re comfort food, and they’re easy to cook up at home, Super said.
“As long as people are sitting around watching TV and maybe drinking a beer, wings will remain in the game. Don’t forget the air fryer revolution, either,” he said. “Bottom line – wing demand has been high.”