In 2021, the US faced an unprecedented shortage in wings, meaning restaurants like Wingstop had a tough challenge in front of them: what do you do when you can’t sell wings? People were experiencing low quality or no wings at all. Given America’s preference for chicken breast, thighs were the one part of the supply not yet exhausted. Wingstop pivoted and launched ‘Thighstop’, a hack of the Wingstop brand. From pack design to communications across broadcast, video, influencers and retail, thighs became the order of the day.

The restaurant launched a virtual brand called « Thighstop » which serves crispy thighs, with or without sauce. The menu also includes breaded boneless versions of the product. Though the Thighstop brand is digital-only — available on the company’s website or through DoorDash but without dedicated stores — customers can order from the « Thighstop » menu through their phones at a Wingstop location, where all orders are filled. For Wingstop, thighs are a better deal than wings.

During the pandemic, when restaurants closed their dining rooms and focused on delivery options, chicken wing sales soared. At Wingstop, sales at US stores open at least a year grew about 21% in 2020. Casual dining chains like Applebee’s and Chili’s owner Brinker International (EAT) launched online-only brands selling wings to get in on the trend. Demand for the product, plus high feed costs and some supply chain constraints, have driven wing prices up.

« The wholesale price of wings a year ago was as low as 98 cents, » per pound, Charlie Morrison, Chairman and CEO of Wingstop Restaurants Inc., told CNN Business. « Today, it’s at $3.22. So it’s a meaningful difference. » Thighs, on the other hand, are « much less expensive, » he said, coming in at about half of what wings cost per pound today. For customers, buying thighs will cost about the same as buying wings from the brand, Morrison said. That means Wingstop’s margins on thighs will be better as long as thighs are cheaper to buy than wings.

But Wingstop was thinking about how to introduce thighs even before prices spiked. « If we can buy all parts of the chicken, not just the breast meat for boneless wings and the wings themselves… We can start to control a little bit more of the supply chain, » Morrison explained. Convincing Americans to get excited about thighs might not be easy. « There’s not a big market for it, » Morrison said. Thighs just « don’t get the appreciation they deserve. »

 

AWARDS

This campaign has been awarded at the following major festivals:

– Cannes Lions 2022: Creative Commerce Grand Prix.

– D&AD 2022: 1 Silver in PR (Reactive Response), 2 Bronze in Digital (Physical & Digital + Tactical).

 

CREDITS

Client: Wingstop, United States. Agency: Leo Burnett, Chicago. Agency Lead: Ben Pfutzenreuter, Matt McNulty, Mikal Pittman. Production Company: The Funnel Creative, MK Films. Global Chief Growth Officer: Marisa Carona. Global Chief Creative Officer: Liz Taylor. PR Agency: MSL. Digital Agency: Hawkeye. Media Agency: Publicis Connect. Editing: The Den, Harbor. Music & Sound Company: Another Country. Photographer: Clint Blowers. Editor: Tim  Warmanen, Eric Alexander-Hughes. Director: Darren Weninger, Cliqua, Laura Johnson, Inga Sheehan. Associate Media Director: Tara Ounan. Media Director: Janna Sacro. Media Supervisor: Lauren Kurash. Data Analyst: Sejal Sura. Client Partner: Allison Cox. Creative Director: Erin Maiorana, Matt McNulty. Chief Strategy Officer: Aki Spicer. Head of Strategy: Julia Botsko. Strategy Director: Christopher  Bridgland. Senior Strategist: Lindsey Summers, Megan Collins. Strategist: Sean Logan. Senior Account Executive: Caroline Kelly. Art Director: Erin McGaughey. Junior Art Director: Shannon Parr. Senior Production Artist: David Webster. Vice President: Grant Keller. Media Strategist: Kathryn Peevey. Account Supervisor: Meg Patrick, Zoe Krey, Allie  Plantery. Associate Creative Director: James Lee. Production Designer: Alex Alvarez. Senior Copywriter: Damian Isaak. Resource Manager: Kevin Brown. Head of Production: Mike Davidson . Executive Producer: Rock Darlington. Senior Producer: Laurie Gustafson, Tara Wert. Producer: Adriana Loayza, Erica Johnson. Head of Business: Mark Burgess. Business Lead: Debbie  Myszynski, Bianca Bradford. Account Director: Jamie Mack, Amy Walloch. Account Executive: Charissa Fort. Assistant Account Executive: Amber  Mekled. Senior Brand Manager: Laura Evans. Global Head of Media Strategy: Kathryn Peevey. Music & Sound: Another Country.

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