Wild Wing is all-in when it comes to wings, with 101 different flavours and two different types of 100 per cent Canadian wings. It’s also all-in when it comes to franchising, with a new partnership and a new look, along with other benefits that are bringing more franchisees into the fold.
Wild Wing restaurants are licensed, family-friendly restaurants with a country theme. While they serve up those 101 different flavours of wings, which make up approximately 70 per cent of food sales, a recent menu revamp ensures there are also plenty of other options, including flatbreads, salads, wraps and sandwiches, burgers, and much more.
Clark McKeown, President and CEO of Wild Wing Hospitality Inc., says the Wild Wing tagline – “hot wings, cold beer, great sports” – showcases what the system is all about, highlighting its focus on the sports-loving customer, whether it’s an adult or children’s sports team, or a fan catching the big game over a cold beer.
Spreading its wings
Wild Wing was founded in 1999 in Sunderland, Ontario, and was acquired by McKeown in 2015. Since then, sales have been on the rise, as has the number of locations throughout the country.
“Since I purchased the brand in March of 2015, our gross network sales have gone from $55 million to an estimated $83 million this year, and our same-store sales have gone up approximately $200,000,” explains McKeown. “We started with 85 locations and are now up to 94.”
While 101 wing flavours and a new expanded menu certainly contribute to this success, McKeown points to two recent initiatives that have helped accelerate Wild Wing’s growth. The first, a new partnership with Canlan Ice Sports Corp, means that the restaurants in 11 facilities across Canada are now licensed Wild Wing restaurants.
“Canlan gets approximately 12 million visits a year,” explains McKeown. “The partnership success ties into their customers being very similar to our customers, and the significant advertising exposure we receive from being in those facilities.”
Wild Wing also developed its Centre of Excellence, located in King City, Ontario. This Centre houses its corporate office, along with a 4,000 square foot restaurant that serves as a training and testing centre.
“We’ve been working hard to upgrade existing locations to have the new look that we have at the Centre of Excellence. We’re still keeping our history, which is the country-focused theme, but cleaning it up with more modern colours,” notes McKeown. “The new look is really to reflect who the new customers are – a little bit trendier.”
Focusing on franchisees
McKeown says finding the franchisee partners to help grow the brand is key. “You need to have the right personality that really wants to run a restaurant/bar. The hours can be longer, so we’re looking for people who are willing to work in the restaurant. We’re very sports focused, so if you love sports, and you love the fun of running a restaurant/bar, you’re the ideal candidate for us,” he explains.
The training program at the Centre of Excellence also means that a food service background isn’t a requirement. “We’re not only looking for people who have direct experience; we’re looking for people who are trainable in the industry. We provide training at their locations and at the Centre,” adds McKeown.
On top of franchisee training, Wild Wing performs annual audits at all locations to provide feedback regarding food quality, health and safety, how to upsell, and much more.
Big games, big flavours, and big benefits
A major benefit to franchisees, notes McKeown, is the smaller footprint of Wild Wing locations. “For new locations, we are focused on retrofitting existing restaurants, which involves converting an existing restaurant that already has the required equipment. A retrofit location, for example, costs approximately $150,000 to $250,000, whereas a new build comes in at approximately $500,000 to $700,000.”
McKeown notes that while minimum wage increases across Canada have impacted the entire food service industry, it had less of a direct impact on Wild Wing franchises. “Minimum wage has really impacted the network, but we’re in a better position than many because our smaller format stores can be run by an owner-operator and their spouse, or one staff member in the front and one in the back. We can really work down to have two people in there during quiet times, and maybe four people when it’s busier,” he explains.
An uptick in delivery also plays a big role for Wild Wing, with approximately 20 per cent of its sales coming from this channel. “Delivery is having a material impact on the industry. We’re in a good position because our product is very delivery friendly,” says McKeown.
Much more still to come
Wild Wing has come a long way since McKeown took the helm in 2015, but he says this is just the beginning for the brand.
“We’re looking at adding another 90 locations across Canada. Our plan is to add at least six new locations a year. We’re certainly looking at expanding to the east coast, and having a significant presence on the west coast,” outlines McKeown, noting that available franchise territories can be found on the Wild Wing website at www.wildwingrestaurants.com.
“What makes our model work is that we provide a great product offering; we have an owner-operated model that doesn’t require a lot of staff; and our stores have a smaller footprint, so you don’t have huge rental costs,” explains McKeown.
Add to that the increase in sales since 2015, delivery sales growth, brand longevity, and the boost in exposure that comes with the new Canlan Ice Sports partnership, and you have a tasty recipe for franchising success.