Wing Zone CEO details new drive-thru flagship unit

<!--paging_filter--><p>Wing Zone soft-opened its flagship unit Sept. 10&mdash;a nearly 50-seat unit in Smyrna, Georgia, that will focus on product development, training and new food service strategies for the brand.</p>
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<p>Among the key aspects of the flagship, which will hold its grand opening in mid-October, are its drive thru in lieu of delivery and its digital menu boards, both of which are intended to propel the brand into the future, said Matt Friedman, Wing Zone&rsquo;s chief executive and co-founder. The facility will also serve as the brand's main training zone for new franchisees, he said.</p>
<p>Delivery is still a hallmark at most Wing Zone locations, but with this product and service development unit, it&rsquo;s possible to try out a new core model and more easily train new franchisees on new practices, Friedman noted. Drive thru, he said, will be a vital part of Wing Zone&rsquo;s future.</p>
<p class="rtecenter"><img align="middle" alt="Wing Zone drive thru" src="http://preview.insidepenton.com/nrn/images/Wing%20Zone%20drive%20thru%20... /></p>
<p>The dining area at the flagship location is also much larger than the average Wing Zone, with the full store totaling 1,700 square feet. Atlanta-based Wing Zone currently operates 83 stores in the U.S., and eight abroad.</p>
<p>&ldquo;This is really our core model going forward,&rdquo; he said of the drive-thru flagship store.</p>
<p>Freidman spoke with Nation&rsquo;s Restaurant News about the flagship store, as well as the strategies his chicken wing chain is using to spur growth.</p>
<p><strong>At this test location, you&rsquo;re using drive thru instead of delivery. Why is that?</strong></p>
<p>The delivery business has changed and it has become a lot more challenging. Fuel prices are tough. Labor costs are an issue. We can be more profitable without it. We can reduce our labor significantly by doing non-delivery locations.</p>
<p>Wing Zone still [has locations] that deliver. Specific markets work for delivery&mdash;colleges do well, military bases do well. That type of consumer really has a desire or need for delivery.</p>
<p>The other big thing about this [drive-thru] model is that it&rsquo;s a little bit larger. We are focusing more on a dine-in focus. We consider it to be mixed dine-in and take-out concept. At this point we&rsquo;re doing 50 percent of our dining in stores and 50 percent either by delivery or drive thru</p>
<p><strong>What impact does delivery versus drive thru have on average check?</strong></p>
<p>In this [delivery] take-out model the average check is $11. Traditional take-out delivery is $16 on an average check. We&rsquo;re getting more and more people through the drive thru, but more people who just order for themselves, instead of themselves and others.</p>
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