- Wingstop’s CEO Charlie Morrison said chicken wing prices have more than doubled.
- Thighstop will allow the chain to buy whole chickens, reducing its supply chain costs.
- ‘We’re doing a deliberate hack on our brand,’ Morrison told Insider.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Wingstop CEO Charlie Morrison believes chicken thighs have been stuck at the bottom of the bucket for far too long.
Starting today, that changes when the Dallas-based fast-casual chain makes dark meat chicken thighs the star of its first virtual brand – Thighstop.
“Unfortunately, thighs don’t get the attention they deserve,” Morrison told Insider.
Wingstop, which logged more than $1 billion in digital sales last year, is rolling out the delivery-only brand at more than 1,400 Wingstop restaurants in the US. The company is using its stores as dark kitchens to prepare the virtual menu. Four of the company’s five US ghost kitchens will also be selling Thighstop.
The move to build a second chicken-focused brand comes as Outback Steakhouse, Applebee’s, and Chili’s flood delivery apps with virtual chicken concepts.
In a previous interview, Morrison told Insider he wasn’t concerned about the crowded field of new virtual chicken concepts.
He’s still not.
He told Insider that Thighstop is not a direct response to those other brands, which “we’re still not worried about.”
Yet, one thing that does concern him: rising chicken wing prices.
Thighstop, which has been in the works since before the pandemic, is expected to ease commodity prices for Wingstop, Morrison said.
Currently, Wingstop separately buys each part of the chicken it needs to prepare its menu – from breasts to tenders to chicken wings. By creating a thigh-focused menu, a part of the bird the company never used, Morrison said Wingstop can save money by buying the whole chicken from suppliers.
Morrison said wings on the spot market are currently selling for more than twice the normal average at $3.22 a pound. By buying the whole bird, Morrison said Wingstop can bring its costs down to about $1.50 per pound.
“We do believe it can reduce the total cost for these products dramatically because we’re committing to the entire bird, not just the parts we need,” he said.
Starting Monday, Thighstop will be available for delivery or pickup by ordering directly through its new branded app or website, or through Wingstop’s exclusive delivery partner DoorDash.
The Thighstop menu features two types of thighs: crispy bone-in thighs and breaded boneless thighs. Both can be tossed in one of 11 classic Wingstop sauces.
By offering the same familiar Wingstop flavors, Morrison said the chain is not trying to hide its virtual brand from consumers like “others have” done.
“We’re doing a deliberate hack on our brand. People will know this is Wingstop behind the scenes,” he said.