Anyone who assumes the wings category has reached a saturation point is mistaken, according to recent research from restaurant consultants Technomic. What’s more, the appeal of this versatile food extends well beyond sports-themed restaurants and bars.
“Wings and sports have long been a winning combination—and more than 10 percent of all wing-based limited-time offers are game-day promotions,” says Technomic executive v.p. Darren Tristano. “However, wings’ overall appeal comes from their ability to suit consumers’ desire for customization, including traditional and global flavor options from sweet to super hot, and for portion flexibility, serving as snacks, starters, entrées and sides. And they are fun finger foods that are easy to share, so they lend a social aspect.”
In its new Category Close-Up: Wings  report, Technomic examined its MenuMonitor online menu-tracking resource to find that 36 percent of the Top 500 restaurant chains offer wings, a number that continues to grow. Wings also present a blank canvas for creativity, judging from the many ways in which they appear on menus:
• Wing flavors and sauces found on menus range from Buffalo and barbecue to the tequila-lime-barbecue at Quaker Steak & Lube and the Raspberry Ice—a sweet and tangy blend of raspberry and horseradish—at Hurricane Grill &Wings.
- Buffalo/hot sauces are the most commonly menued wing sauces. Among these types, the less-spicy mild and medium sauces have declined as Buffalo and “extra-hot” varieties have grown.
- Wing concepts offer an average of 18 different sauces. Hurricane Grill lists more than 30, as does Wild Wing Café. Variety is also found at chains not focused on wings—Beef ‘O’ Brady’s and Cheeseburger in Paradise, for example, each offer 12 options.
- Sweet-style barbecue sauces are more popular than spicy-style barbecue sauces, though preferences vary heavily by region. Consumer preference for sweet sauces indicates opportunity for flavors such as sweet and sour, honey-chipotle and maple-brown sugar.
- 28 percent of wing-focused limited-time offers promote new wing flavors, offering operators a compelling method to drive sales while testing new wing varieties.
- Boneless wings are on the rise. And, interestingly, as restaurants have added them, the incidence of traditional wings has not decreased. Operators have found boneless wings appeal to a new consumer—one who does not enjoy the finger-licking aspect of traditional wings.
To learn more about this report, visit Technomic.com .