In Focus
EXECUTIVE INSIGHTS | Staff Reporter, Australia
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Find out how US-brand Wingstop is planning to disrupt the chicken category in Australia

QSR Media has reached Larry Kruguer, President International at Wingstop Restaurants, Inc., to discuss about its imminent launch in the country.

Earlier this year, the popular US-based Wingstop Restaurants Inc. announced that it is extending its global reach by expanding into Australia and New Zealand. Over the next 10 years, 110 restaurants will open across Australia and New Zealand with the first Wingstop set to open in Brisbane during the first half of 2018.

QSR Media: Can you tell us more about the Australia and New Zealand expansion? Why did you think Australia and New Zealand are good fit for Wing Stop?

When we looked into expanding Wingstop to Australia and New Zealand, we saw the chicken category is underserved – especially so in Australia. As we continue to expand internationally, we look for markets where our concept and success can be replicated, and our research indicates that Australia and New Zealand will be equally receptive. We have invested in due diligence and planning over the last year to maximize this opportunity.

We are excited that the openings in Australia and New Zealand will mark the eleventh and twelfth international markets outside of the United States; and the sixth and seventh new markets announced over the past 12 months.

QSR Media: What opportunities do you see in these countries?

Our expansion into Australia and New Zealand is key step as we grow our brand internationally and continue on our mission to serve the world flavor. Australia, while underserved in the restaurant sector, is a major consumer of chicken, and our distinctly flavored wings provide a differentiated offering in the market.

QSR Media: Why did you pick John Bridgeman Limited as your Franchise Partner?

John Bridgeman Limited is an experienced and outstanding partner for us. They recently became a master franchisee of American restaurant brand, Johnny Rockets, and opened the first location very successfully. Stuart McAuliffe, managing director of John Bridgeman, and his team have been very successful in various sectors and are now focusing attention in the local food and beverage sector.

QSR Media: What do you observe with the demands of consumers today?

We see a number of different demand trends across all of the markets where we have locations including United States, Mexico, Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.

In the U.S., we’re now in football season. People love to order wings and other appetizers to enjoy while they watch the game on the weekend. These customers demand flavor and convenience – and for us, those things goes hand-in-hand. The majority of our orders are for takeout, and this allows us to keep restaurant footprints small, minimize costs, and cater to the increasing demand for online ordering.

In International, we have developed two models to cater to the needs of particular markets. In Mexico, our largest operation outside the U.S., we have a Sports bar centric model that caters to a heavy dine-in business and the ability to customer to eat great wings while enjoying the best of global sports – be it the NFL in the U.S. or soccer games from the best leagues around the world. In the majority of our markets, we operate a traditional fast casual model that is a smaller footprint and caters to both dine in customers as well as those that wish to take our or receive their wings via delivery.

In all cases, our flavor offerings differentiate us from other players in the quick serve restaurant space. Our menu features classic and boneless wings with 11 bold, distinctive flavors including Original Hot, Cajun, Atomic, Mild, Teriyaki, Lemon Pepper, Hawaiian, Garlic Parmesan, Hickory Smoked BBQ, Louisiana Rub, and Mango Habanero. We can’t pick a favorite of course, but our Lemon Pepper is especially beloved by many of our fans worldwide.

QSR Media: How would you describe the brand?

At Wingstop, we are all about serving the world flavor. That has been the keystone of our brand since we were founded in 1994. Wingstop’s wings are always cooked to order, hand-sauced and tossed and served with a variety of house-made sides including our very popular seasoned fries. We like to keep it simple and believe that benefits our franchisors and guests equally. In fact, ninety percent of sales come from chicken and fries. For us, chicken wings have always been a center-of-the-plate item – an entrée rather than an appetizer – and we’re confident the Australian and New Zealand consumer will agree and embrace our differentiated offering.

QSR Media: Who is your target customer?

In the U.S., our core target customer is 18- to 34-year-old millennials. Nearly half of Wingstop guests are millennials (49%); and 53% of customers are women. Internationally we see similar trends with some slight variances, with millennials definitely making a major part of our fan base.

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