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Wingstop to open sports-themed spin-off

Wingstop Restaurants Inc. plans to debut Wingstop Sports — a larger, fast-casual version of Wingstop — in Brownsville, Texas.

The test unit, scheduled to open around Thanksgiving, will feature an expanded menu that uses a grill, unlike typical Wingstop restaurants. It will also have more seating, a patio, a bar and more televisions for watching sports, executives said Monday.

“This offers a bigger opportunity for in-house dining,” said Jim Flynn, president and chief executive of Richardson, Texas-based Wingstop. “This is really a test in a smaller market. We wouldn’t put it in Dallas, for example. It’s for smaller communities where stores draw customers from a larger area.”

Bill Knight, Wingstop chief operating officer, said: “It’s not a sports bar. It’s not going to compete with Buffalo Wild Wings.”

Wingstop Sports, which is being developed with an area franchisee, will cover 2,800 square feet, compared with a traditional unit’s 1,500 square feet. It will seat 98 customers, 58 more than a typical location.

Flynn said he expects take-out sales to comprise 40 percent to 50 percent of total sales, versus 70 percent to 75 percent take-out in a traditional unit.

The restaurant, like most Wingstop locations, will offer beer, wine and a wine-based margarita. Flynn said Wingstop expects the Sports concept to make 6 percent to 7 percent of total sales in alcoholic beverages, compared with 2 percent of traditional units.

A new grill in the kitchen will let Wingstop Sports offer an expanded menu.

“We wanted to stay in our wheel-house,” Knight said, with the menu still focused on poultry items.

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Items unique to the Wingstop Sports menu will include mozzarella sticks, chips with queso and salsa, quesadillas, Caesar and club salads, sandwiches with grilled and fried chicken, and chicken fajita wraps. New side dishes will include macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes.

Wingstop Sports will also offer desserts — key lime pie, cheesecake and brownies — unlike traditional units.

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Guests will order at the counter, but food will be delivered to the table, Knight said, unlike typical Wingstop restaurants.

The décor will feature sports memorabilia and 10 high-definition televisions.

The Sports unit, which will occupy a freestanding location next to a Papa Murphy’s restaurant, will have patio seating for 30 and a limited bar area with eight to 10 seats, Knight said.

Flynn said the Rio Grande Valley market, where Brownsville, Texas, is located, is one of Wingstop’s strongest markets. Annual unit sales among Wingstops in that area average $1.3 million, compared with $790,000 for a unit elsewhere, Flynn said.

The Sports restaurant will also include two Coca-Cola Freestyle customizable drink units, which Flynn and Knight said have boosted food and beverage sales in other units.

The company is considering opening a second unit in Texas next year, but Wingstop executives said plans were not firm yet.

Wingstop, which was acquired in 2010 by Roark Capital Group of Atlanta, has 485 restaurants in the United States and Mexico.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected].
Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

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