News Column

Wingstop Gains an Edge

March 20, 2012

Rebecca Villaneda--Staff Writer

Raul Torres and his wife, Erica, own six Wingstop restaurants in Texas.
Raul Torres and his wife, Erica, own six Wingstop restaurants in Texas.

Raul Torres owns six restaurants in the Brownsville area of Texas' Rio Grande Valley. He owes it to a Wingstop commercial. The commercial sparked Mr. Torres' interest in the franchise so much that he and his wife went in one to check it out. Ten years later, he is the first franchisee to open a prototype sports concept restaurant, which he helped develop with Bill Knight, Wingstop's COO.

"It's a great brand. Their product is phenomenal. Their corporate stands behind you and helps you out," Mr. Torres said. "Going with a franchise is the way to go. I would recommend that to anybody."

Approximately 48 percent of Wingstop's franchised locations are minority owned. More specifically, 10 to 15 percent are Hispanic owned, according to a company spokeswoman.

Torres opened his first Wingstop in August 2002 with about $240,000, which he got with some help from the Small Business Administration.

"One of the top reasons Wingstop appeals to entrepreneurs and multi-unit operators is because we were founded on a simple operating platform of cooked-to-order wings and fresh-cut fries," said Dave Vernon, senior vice president of development. "We have a focused, quality menu that guests crave. Plus, 75 percent of our sales are carryout, which means less square footage and lower operations costs for franchisees."

A First of Its Kind
The biggest differences between Mr. Torres' pilot sports concept restaurant and his others in the Brownsville area, he said, is the size -- it's close to twice as big, with a bar area that serves beer and wine -- and its extended menu.

"Wingstop Sports is Wingstop, plus more," Knight said. "We wanted to create a fun, friendly atmosphere with local sports memorabilia and live sports playing throughout the day for those guests who are looking for a place to hang out with family and friends and enjoy great food, drinks and sports."

In January, the franchise celebrated the opening of its 500th location, in Brooklyn, N.Y., and plans to open 60 more in 2012, according to a press release.

Additionally, Wingstop same-store sales for the fourth quarter in 2011 increased by 9 percent.

Investment for an individual Wingstop ranges from $263,550 to $616,946. A single-unit operator must have a minimum net worth of $400,000, of which $200,000 must be liquid capital. Multi-unit developers must have liquidity totaling $200,000 per store that they plan to develop, according to the company's website.

A former computer networker, Mr. Torres said his first restaurant took two or three years to gain popularity. Now, all six of his stores make at least $1 million in sales yearly.

"The finish-outs from 10 years ago to now, all of the building materials have gone up so much -- that's the biggest change," Mr. Torres said, adding that his new sports concept store's sales has helped land it among the top 15 Wingstops in the nation.

"(Raul) has been nationally recognized by the company as 'Multi-Unit Operator of the Year,' and local store marketer of the year, and was elected by his fellow franchisees to serve on the Franchise Advisory Council," Mr. Knight said.

"Raul brings years of experience to operating Wingstop restaurants, is a gentlemen of great integrity, and an entrepreneur in the truest sense of the word," he added. "These type of qualities and achievements made Raul a natural to partner with corporate on the creation of Wingstop Sports."'

Source: (c) 2012. All rights reserved.

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