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Southern Charm concept by Wingtopia. /Wingtopia

Why Wingtopia’s founder believes growing too quickly is a double-edged sword

The fast-casual restaurant is planning to open 19 restaurants in 2024.

Wingtopia founder Darren Faulkner believes that organically growing means growth strategies should be measured but sustainable.

Wingtopia has been around since 2020. The brand is inspired by the flavours of the American South showcasing five different styles and flavours of wings. It also sells chicken sandwiches and two types of po’boys (shrimp & chicken) as well as a breakfast menu served in New Orleans style.

READ MORE: This concept is looking to lead the country’s “untapped” chicken wings segment

“Like most of the restaurant industry, the challenges have been plentiful. Supplier issues, labour shortages, price increases and the cost of living crisis have all added to the pressures of running a small business. It is a testament to Steve and Tanya Palmer (CEO & COO) and their fortitude and agility to adapt and implement efficiencies and processes to minimise the reliance on staff. And introducing food preparation strategies to minimise wastage. We’ve been through it and come out the other end, and it has only benefited the profitability of the brand,” Darren told QSR Media.

These past two years, Wingtopia has been resisting to expand, opting to study the market first.

“Resisting the urge to grow simply because there is a demand is the key. Too many times, brands have grown too quickly and the allure and lustre diminish and people's lives are forever changed,” Darren explained.

Darren knows that to grow sustainably, Wingtopia must focus on making everyone, especially its franchisees, a winner.

Triggering expansion

Soon the brand could not put off calls for expansion as interest in Wingtopia’s concept grew.

“We kept putting the expansion plans off, waiting for the best time to move forward and then realised we just needed to ‘pull the trigger’…waiting was not getting us moving forward,” Darren said.

Just recently, the brand announced that it is planning a massive expansion with 19 restaurants set for 2024.

“We have landlords almost on a daily basis reaching out to us about sites they have. Customers incessantly ask us when we’re opening a store near them. And we have experienced operators wanting to add to their restaurant portfolios literally banging down the door to open a Wingtopia. Conditions and expectations for growth could not be more apparent and resisting it has become untenable,” Darren told QSR Media when asked why this is the right time for the brand to expand despite inflation.

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Darren presently plans to open restaurants in strip shops where existing QSRs like Zambrero, Subway, Noodle Box, and Domino’s.

Darren said they have identified at least 22 locations, all in Western Australia. 

They have eight restaurants with committed franchisees located at Alkimos, Fremantle, Hillarys, Leederville, Nedlands, North Perth, Mandurah, and Subiaco.

Four are currently in negotiations with qualified franchisees located at Aveley, Busselton, Innaloo, and Victoria Park.

The rest of the locations they plan to open are in Albany, Baldivis, Beldon, Bunbury, Geraldton, Joondalup, Northbridge, Perth City, Scarborough, Swan View, and Warnbro.

The expansion will also see the brand debut its Wingtopia ‘Southern Charm’ concept. The restaurant will operate with alcohol licenses and will be styled around a New Orleans bar.

“It will have a contagious ‘Bourbon Street’ atmosphere that the whole family can enjoy. You’ll still be able to get all our delicious menu, but you’ll also be able to have a relaxing beer or frozen cocktail,” Darren explained.

Darren said they plan to debut this concept at their Fremantle, Scarborough, and Leederville sites. It will also include a kiosk-type concept and a drive-thru model.

The reason they chose strip shops and these areas is because these areas represent highly densely populated suburban areas with a family demographic. Darren said this is because this is the brand’s identified market and represents the very latest in statistical data with the highest chance of success according to their research. 

“These sites are ready to move into and we have a very tight schedule of 19 sites opening in 2024,” Darren said.

For 2024, the focus will be only on Perth and Western Australia. However, Darren said they are receiving interest from Queensland and Victoria locations which they plan to factor into their growth strategy.

This means that they will use the second half of 2024 to plan for their entry into these areas.

“If we get a robust response, we’d be forced to take notice. With that said, this is by no means a push for applications…to be honest, we’re swamped just with Western Australia,” Darren said.

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