Posted October 27, 2004 by Nick Lindauer in Hot Sauce News

It's a wing thing Chicken wing businesses taking flight

By Tim Greening

Los Angeles residents Chris Formby and Heather McLean visit Shreveport occasionally to see Formby’s father, Tommy. And they know not to leave town before they get their fix of spicy chicken wings because they make them different here.

“When you come to a place like this you know you’re going to get the hottest wings,” Chris Formby said, wiping the sweat off his brow while munching on “Wings on Fire” at Wings N Things on Mansfield Road.

“In Los Angeles, they just don’t make them hot enough. Even when you go to Hooters and order their hottest wings, it’s like barbecue sauce.”

And when they return next time they’ll have more chicken wing places to choose from. Shreveport and Bossier City have seen no less than seven chicken wing-oriented restaurants that have opened or will open in the coming months.

Wingstop, a Dallas-based chain, got it started when it opened its Shreveport location in Old Rivermarket Shopping Center in July 2003. Just over a year later, we have Wings Express, Wings N Things (both on Mansfield Road), Wings to Go on south Youree Drive and Wing King in Bossier City. Soon, there’ll be a King of Wings on Line Avenue and another Wingstop location in Bossier City.

So the question is, why? Why are chicken wings the hottest trend in restaurants (no pun intended)?

“I don’t really know the explanation,” said P.K. Patel, co-owner of Wings to Go, a Dallas-based chain.

Patel said wing shacks are “a dime a dozen” in Dallas, where he’s from. His partner, Jay Patel (no relation), has relatives in Shreveport and when they would visit them here, he saw an opportunity.

“I said, ‘There’s no chicken wing places here,'” P.K. Patel said. They opened in July.

Mel Owen, owner of the local franchise of Wings N Things, also a Dallas-based chain, thinks it’s the convenience that attracts people to chicken wings.

“People like to nibble,” Owen said. “You can eat 20 wings and not think you’ve had a whole meal, as opposed to eating half of a chicken.”

“It’s finger food,” said Hyung Choi, owner and creator of Wing King. “People like to snack and watch TV and might not want a full meal.”

But let’s face it: It’s all about the sauce. Most of these restaurants have a dozen or more different flavors to coat the wings, and they’re usually extremely tangy, extremely spicy or a combination of both.

McLean, our visitor from Los Angeles, said it’s the variety of flavors that draw her to them.

“I like that you can get all the different flavors in one meal,” McLean said.

Bossier Parish Community College students Shane Barksdale and Brandon Pender, recent customers at Wing King, like the intense flavors and the fact that you usually get a lot of wings with a typical order.

“You get a lot of them and you just keep eating them. They’re just a different taste,” Barksdale said.

“I just like the flavor, It’s just something different, it’s not just like regular chicken,” Pender said.

All the restaurant owners and managers we talked to said their version of the classic Buffalo wing — the spicy, pepper-sauce-coated wings that are the granddaddy of hot wings — is their best seller. They also said take-out orders make up the majority of their sales.

One flavor that’s catching on at Wings Express, located in Daiquiri Express on Mansfield Road, is its Coca-Cola wings. The 5-year-old daiquiri bar just added its hot wing menu a couple of months ago and manager David Adkins developed the Coca-Cola sauce, adapted from a recipe he saw in a cookbook.

“It was too complicated so I simplified it,” Adkins said. He starts with Coca-Cola syrup and adds brown sugar and other spices.

He said most people are turned off by the name and order something else, but he’ll slip them a Coca-Cola wing.

“They try it and, boy, they love it,” Adkins said. “They’ll come back and order all Coca-Cola wings.”

However, most of the restaurateurs recognize they can’t just sell wings and offer alternatives.

“Not everyone likes chicken wings, and not everyone likes them every day. If you just do chicken wings, you’ll turn away half your customers,” said Owen of Wings N Things, adding that his hand-made hamburgers sell very well.

His menu of “N Things” also includes chicken fingers, shrimp and sandwiches, as does Wings to Go and Wings Express. Similarly, Wing King also sells fried rice and teriyaki rice bowls.

So, will the trend continue? Most certainly. Wingstop already has a Bossier City store in the works, set to be in the Kickapoo Motel area currently under renovation. Manager Reggie Taylor said it should open in January.

And Choi has big plans for Wing King. He wants to open another dine-in restaurant in Shreveport like the one he has in Bossier City, and then he wants to open three take-out-only stores in both cities.

“In the next month, I’ll start looking into it,” he said.

©The Shreveport Times
October 27, 2004

Nick Lindauer

The Original Hot Sauce Blog