Wingstop‘s business is on fire.
The fast-casual chicken wing chain, which has been called a cross between Chipotle and Buffalo Wild Wings, had the food industry’s hottest IPO of the summer. Sales are up 9% in the most recent quarter, double what analysts at Morgan Stanley were expecting.
And if Wall Street’s adoration weren’t enough, Wingstop has rapper Rick Ross to sing its praises.
Hip-hop’s heavyweight lyricist name-drops his favourite flavour (Lemon Pepper) and brags about the number of franchises he owns (20 then; 25 now) in the 2012 track “Trap Boomin.'” His lyrics and social media accounts chronicle a storied love affair with the chain.
We stopped by Wingstop’s Daly City, California, location to see what all the buzz is about.
When I arrive at the Wingstop in Daly City, California, the nostalgic aviation-themed décor strikes me. I expected more of a trashy sports bar vibe.
All 785 locations around the world look like this -- even rapper Rick Ross' 25 restaurants. Sadly, this was not one of them.
Though the rapper has been spotted at locations across the country. He takes meetings and poses for photos with staff.
One Brooklyn-based franchise-owner told Forbes Magazine in an interview, 'People come in here thinking he owns this all the time. He made Wingstop more popular.'
So, what attracted hip-hop's cash king in the first place? Back in Daly City, I notice immediately how limited the menu board is ...
That's what makes Wingstop so great: It does wings. That's about it. For 21 years, the brand has focused on one niche guilty-pleasure food, and perfected it.
With the exception of football game nights when demand is particularly high, bone-in wings arrive from the warehouse fresh, not frozen. Every batch is cooked to order.
Into the fryer they go! The wings cook for 11 minutes, which seems like forever compared to the speedy service at fast-casual restaurants like Chipotle. But they never sit out under a heat lamp.
Time for the saucing. Wingstop offers 11 unique flavours, including Mango Habanero, Hickory Smoked BBQ, Cajun, and Original Hot, which tastes like a traditional buffalo-style.
The Lemon Pepper wings are the most popular flavour after Original Hot. Which may be surprising, because, frankly, they sound gross.
When in fact, the zesty lemon bursts with flavour, and the hearty flakes of pepper cut the acidity. Its a match made in culinary heaven.
They're Ross's favourite, too. In the song 'New Agenda,' he says he spent $6 million on a condo and an extra $2 million on the terrace, but, 'All I want is that Lemon Pepper.'
The equally surprising and savoury Garlic Parmesan wings taste like chicken-topped fettuccine alfredo. The owner tells me that Wingstop wants to make wing flavours you can't get anywhere else.
A spice-lover may graduate from the Original Hot to the Louisiana Rub, a southern-inspired dry rub made with cajun and garlic.
Wingstop offers a few sides, including baked beans, potato salad, and freshly baked roles, but none have garnered a following like the Seasoned Fries. This Wingstop location goes through roughly 450 pounds of Idaho potatoes every day.
The kitchen manager won't reveal the seasoning's ingredients, but I'm pretty sure it's salt, pepper, garlic, and a pound of sugar.
The Ranch dressing is also made fresh every day. The owner tells me some customers stop in just to buy little containers of it.
Wingstop is refreshing in its bold flavour profiles. These are not your slimy, late-night buffalo-style wings you ordered in college.
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