Flying above the competition


Flying above the competition

If you’ve got chicken wings on your menu, you also have a ton of competition out there. According to Datassential, 41 percent of all restaurants with appetizers offer chicken wings.

The good news is that the appetite for chicken wings is nearly insatiable. According to the National Chicken Council, an estimated 14 billion chicken wings are eaten each year. But why should potential customers come to your restaurant for chicken wings and not theirs? The answer is easy. You offer plenty of tasty chicken wing options and you back them up with promotions that are too irresistible to pass up. If for some reason you can’t make that claim, it’s time to up your promotions game.

What follows are some creative chicken wing promos that rise above the crowd.

  • Quaker Steak & Lube. If your joint sells wings and beer, then sports promotions are right in your wheelhouse. During any given Super Bowl, Americans eat in the vicinity of 1.25 billion chicken wings, says the National Chicken Council. And since Americans are sports crazy, there are tons of opportunities for sports promotions throughout the year. For the upcoming college basketball playoffs, 65-plus-unit Quaker Steak & Lube is inviting customers to register and submit their bracket predictions for all 63 men’s college March Madness games. Anyone who predicts a perfect bracket will win $1 million (paid as a 40-year annuity). If a guest predicts 60-plus games correctly, the award will be a 2017 Ford Mustang. Whoever takes the top spot at each Quaker location will win free wings for a year. For a small restaurant concept, the top prize might only be free wings for a year. But that and bragging rights will make any fan giddy. The point is: sports promotions engage your customers and drive food and drink sales through the roof.
  • Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap in Chicago isn’t the first to challenge customers with an I-dare-you promotion, but it’s a clever gimmick that gets people excited and talking. Its version challenges all guests to eat its Original XXX Wings, which are coated with a screamingly hot sauce that includes the scorpion pepper (the world’s hottest pepper), the ghost pepper and the habanero pepper. Those who accept the challenge are given a fireman’s helmet, but not before they sign a waiver releasing the restaurant of all liability (a great attention grabber). If contestants finish a plate of the wings, their picture is posted on Jake’s “Wall of Flame.” The restaurant is electric with excitement when the dare is accepted. The promotion regularly grabs the attention of the media, including ABC’s Nightline and Last Call with Carson DalyYou can’t beat free publicity. 
  • Bufalucca Sports n’ Wings in Sebring, Florida, draws customers in by inviting owners of antique and classic automobiles to show off their prize possessions, which are displayed around the parking lot every Wednesday from 3 to 6 p.m.  Wings are only 65 cents each, while beers are $2. It’s a promotion that draws regulars and passersby. Sports bars have a tendency to draw a younger crowd, but this promo also pulls in an older crowd that connects with the vintage autos.
  • Barn & Company in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood regularly schedules promotions to draw in clubs, groups and organizations. One such group, Geeks Who Drink, currently meets there on Tuesdays to, well, drink and play team competition quiz games. A $12.99 all-you-can-eat wing special has proven irresistible, and so are the higher-than-usual profits from the sale of beer and drinks. Group events create an energy and excitement in any restaurant that many customers crave. 
  • Booty’s Wings, Burgers & Beer in Surprise, Arizona,, is a six-time National Buffalo Wing Festival Award winner. That alone should be a big enough draw, but Booty’s hedges its bet every Thursday with a combo offer of 70 cent all day wings, $3 margaritas, an all day happy hour and nighttime karaoke. Special one day wing pricing is a great draw, but paring it with drink specials and other promos will pack ’em in. You can only imagine how wild karaoke night (and drink sales) must be during the all day party. The lesson here is that offering a combo promotion is far more productive than a simple solitary offering. A simple no-brainer promotion that any restaurant can pull off simply pairs wings and beer. Pick a craft beer and a style of wings and make it a special. Booty’s holds this particular promotion on Thursdays, but why not offer yours on Mondays or Tuesdays to generate traffic on slow days? 


Greene’s Ale House in Oswego, New York,  uses a “Beat the Clock” chicken wing promotion to drive customer traffic on Mondays and only Mondays. It works like this: from 3 to 6 p.m. chicken wings are 60 cents each. The price goes up to 70 cents from 6 to 9 p.m.  and 80 cents from 9 p.m. to midnight. The promo not only attracts customers on a traditionally slow day, but it also encourages them to show up early. It’s simple and successful.

  • Tony Roma’s offers Harissa Maple-Glazed Chicken wings, which it pairs with a side dish of fiery jalapeño coleslaw. The chain is cleverly tapping into the global flavors trend, which appeared on many lists of 2017 top food trends. A trendy wing style will catch the eyes of your more savvy customers, particularly if you pair it with an equally interesting side. Combos are the one-two punch of promotions. 
  • Buffalo Wild Wings, in that same global vein, offers Havana Heat Wings, which also taps into the global flavor trend, while connecting to current events (the warming of relations between the U.S. and Cuba). You can take this same idea to another level by offering a specific style of wings that reinforces your restaurant’s theme. P.F. Chang’s does this well with its Hunan Dragon Wings. You can build any number of combo promotions around a signature wing. 
  • J. Timothy’s Taverne in Plainville, Connecticut, separates itself from the buffalo wing crowd by creating a signature preparation method — “dirty style.” Its wings are fried, sauced, fried again and sauced again. The result is a wing that is caramelized and crispier with charred bits. For those who don’t like flabby wings but do like huge flavor, dirty wings rock. Customers can opt not to have their wings cooked “dirty,” a choice that’s not exercised often. The point is, with dozens of places selling chicken wings within a several mile radius of J Timothy’s, this concept has separated the restaurant from the crowd with a signature cooking method. Promote what makes you special.

Article originally appeared on Restaurant Hospitality.