Comfort food is king in 2020 and more and more people are turning to chicken wings to find that comfort. According to Grubhub, chicken wings are 287 percent more popular this year than last year. And they are the third most popular delivery order amid the pandemic.
With chicken wings ever more popular, the parent company of Hooters, HOA Brands, is doubling down on its wing business. The company's fast-casual restaurant, Hoots Wings, will be franchising with 17 new locations planned for 2021 and another 35 for 2022. Hoots is focused on takeout and delivery to cater to the stay-at-home economy.
Despite the struggles in the restaurant industry, CEO Sal Melilli said that now is the perfect time for Hoots Wings to … take flight.
"At the end of the day we face the same challenges with closures and sales and restaurants being limited," said Melilli. "But based on this model and based on demand for the product and the phenomenal wings, we came back very quickly."
The wing-focused restaurant was not only able to bring sales back to life but open new units during the pandemic. The company has partnered with all major delivery services to get wings to customers faster. And while the menu is limited to only a few food items — mainly wings — the order options are pretty endless, having more than 10,000 different wing combinations.
"When you look at all of our combinations of the wings, the bone-in the boneless, with all the different sauces, dips, and rubs it can be a little bit of a challenge but it makes it exciting when you're a customer trying to make a decision of which one you want," he said.
The secret to good wings? The HOA CEO said that it's about experience. The first Hoots Wings location opened four years ago in Chicago but chicken wings have been this company's specialty for much longer.
"We realized that with 37 years of being in the chicken wing business with Hooters, that our consumer really wanted the product," Melilli explained. "And we saw demand back in 2015 and '16 begin to really skyrocket for taking the product home and consuming it off-premise so this was just a natural fit."