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Celebrating 25 Years: How Wing Zone Went From Frat House to Global Franchise

The wing themed fast-casual restaurant is gearing up for franchisee growth in South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Ohio and Kentucky.

By Emily ClouseStaff Writer
SPONSORED 7:19PM 08/15/19

In 1991, the University of Florida fraternity brothers Matt Friedman and Adam Scott were hungry. So, naturally, the two friends started serving up deliciously saucy wings right out of their frat house kitchen. Before long, students all over campus were craving the flavors, so Friedman and Scott—self-proclaimed Flavorholics—delivered their creations right to them. Thus, Wing Zone was born.

“Those were our truly humble beginnings,” said Friedman. “It ended up being a big success.” After a “pretty harsh slap on the wrist” by their school administration, Friedman and Scott officially opened their first Wing Zone storefront in Gainesville, Florida in 1993.

Wing Zone’s offerings have expanded far beyond wings, fries and soft drinks delivered to residence halls, frat houses and off-campus apartments. Today’s menu is innovative and exploding with a variety of flavors—17 in total to be exact.

And, just like when it was founded, the brand still thrives on takeout and delivery. “Our biggest differentiator is that we’ve been in the delivery business for 25 years,” said Friedman. “Everyone says they deliver now, but we have lived it and perfected it.”

From the frat house kitchen to nearly 100 locations, Wing Zone remains founder-driven and franchise-focused. “We have a tight relationship with our franchisees,” explained Friedman. “They have access to the founders, and they have a voice in the direction we are going. We value their input and will grow together.”

Wing Zone opened its first franchise location in Tuscaloosa, Alabama in 1999 and its first international location in Panama City, Panama in 2009. “Our international franchisees are growing at a rapid pace,” said Friedman. “They represent Wing Zone so well in their countries and are great brand ambassadors. Panama will be opening its 16th location this year.”

Domestically, Wing Zone targets dense residential areas including college campuses, military bases and other areas where the demand for takeout and delivery is highest. “The younger demographics work well for us,” said Friedman. “We also do well with dual-income middle-class households—truly the heartland of America where people love our restaurant.”

Wing Zone is currently growing in a core 10-state region through franchising, with major priority in South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Ohio and Kentucky. “There are some great markets in these states that may be overlooked by other brands,” said Friedman. “Everyone rushes to the larger metropolitan cities, but they forget that there’s a lot of competition there and rents can be very high. We have found that we can dominate mid-tier markets with populations around 50,000-plus.”

While many brands only focus on multi-unit franchisees, Wing Zone is focused on building a local community presence. “We want franchisees to open one to three locations, but above all, they are full-time owners,” said Friedman. “Wing Zone is our franchisees’ passion and full-time focus.”

That’s why Wing Zone franchisees are outgoing and active members of their communities. “We like the idea of our franchisees living in the market where they own their Wing Zone franchise,” said Friedman. “The goal is for our franchisees to be the face of Wing Zone in their own market.”

The brand is committed to frequently communicating and working closely with franchisees. Wing Zone discounts its royalties by 50% for the initial 12 months from signing so that franchisees are incentivized to get open sooner.  

Wing Zone also offers franchisees exclusivity in a market and all the support they need to develop it. “That’s an attractive opportunity for a lot of franchisees,” said Friedman. “Ultimately, we’re in a somewhat uncompetitive space. We are not a sandwich brand, a make-your-own burrito place, or a pizza concept. When we go to a market, it’s new and innovative—and something our franchisees and consumers are really excited about.”

The overall investment for a Wing Zone franchise is around $250,000 with a $25,000 franchise fee. Prospective franchisees can get into a proven franchise model for as little as $50,000 down.  With average restaurant sales of $750,000+, the ratio of sales to investment leaves Wing Zone franchisees as satisfied as their Flavorholic consumers.

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