RICHARDSON, Texas ( MainStreet) -- With 500 stores in the U.S. and Mexico and its 3 billionth wing sale fast approaching, it's probably not necessary to identify Wingstop as CEO James Flynn sometimes does: "We are not Buffalo Wild Wings ( BWLD)." Wingstop, which was founded in 1994 and began franchising three years later, has new private-equity owners and sees plenty of opportunity to expand in the U.S. and internationally.
Wingstop, a 500-franchise chain, isn't done growing nationally, internationally or into a whole kind of business.
Why not? It has had eight consecutive years of same-store sales increases despite a tough economy that stalled many other franchises, which Flynn attributes to consumers trading down from casual dining to so-called fast-casual restaurants as they tightened the purse strings. "We are for a really good value for what we do," he says. But more importantly, there doesn't seem to be a lot of direct competitors. Combined with a strong management team, industry experts says, that makes selling the Wingstop story to consumers and franchisees that much easier. "If you look around, we are the only company that I know of virtually specializing in nothing but wings. If you take wings plus beverages plus french fries, you got 90%" of the menu -- an exaggeration, though Wingstop's menu is no-frills. It sells only wings, boneless and bone-in, but with 10 flavors to sauce them up, including "Original Hot, Cajun, Atomic, Mild, Teriyaki, Lemon Pepper, Hawaiian, Garlic Parmesan, Hickory Smoked BBQ and the newest offering, Louisiana Rub." Orders are made fresh, cooked to order and customers can get a variety of side dishes. Wingstop is a fast food joint. Buffalo Wild Wings, on the other hand, has been hugely successful as a part sports bar, part casual-dining restaurant franchise. "We don't have any real significant chicken-wing competitors," Flynn says of Buffalo Wild Wings. "We really consider pizza probably a bigger competitor."