Wingstop turns to chicken thighs to combat wing shortage

Wingstop is taking a flyer thighs.

The Dallas, Texas-based chicken wing chain has launched a virtual brand called “Thighstop” in a bid to get customers to order crispy chicken thighs instead of the traditional wings, which have surged in price.

The menu is largely the same, with customers able to pick one of 11 flavors and opt for either a bone-in or boneless thigh.

The new thigh brand’s available for delivery or carryout at Wingstop’s 1,400 locations nationwide through DoorDash or on

Wingstop chairman and CEO Charlie Morrison told CNN that the company made the move because the costs of chicken wings have become so severely inflated.

Morrison said the wholesale price of a pound of wings has risen from 98 cents a year ago to $3.22 today.

Chicken products across the board have risen in price during the pandemic for a variety of reasons, including a surge in demand driven by the so-called chicken sandwich wars as well as some impotent roosters that haven’t yielded as many chicks as hoped.

The national labor shortage has also hampered meat processors’ abilities to meet demand.

Thighstop promo image.
Customers can pick one of 11 flavors and opt for either a bone-in or boneless thigh.

Morrison said chicken thighs, though, remain about half as expensive per pound than wings, enabling the company to eke out a bigger profit on each sale. He added that getting Americans to embrace thighs could be a challenge.

Thighs just “don’t get the appreciation they deserve,” he said.

The cost of chicken has been on the rise since the start of the pandemic sent Americans searching for not just comfort foods, but comfort foods that travel well during delivery. Chicken wings proved to be a favorite.

Sales at Wingstop’s US stores that have been open for at least a year grew almost 21 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared with the same time a year ago, the company said in April. The company noted at the time that the cost of bone-in chicken wings has risen almost 26 percent from a year ago.

Person holding Thighstop chicken.
The wholesale price of a pound of wings has risen from 98 cents a year ago to $3.22 today.

Supply, Morrison noted at the time, was also constrained as meat processors, hampered by the nationwide labor shortage, struggled to meet demand as companies like Applebee’s and Chili’s launched their own chicken wing brands and capitalize on the trend.

“Until we see a marked change in the availability of labor for poultry producers, a labor shortage that we believe is largely fueled by the amount of government stimulus, we anticipate that wing prices could remain elevated for the balance of 2021,” Morrison said in April on a conference call with analysts.

In the past couple of months, white-hot inflation appears to have pushed the costs of chicken even higher. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cost of poultry rose another 1.9 percent from April to May. The agency doesn’t break out the cost of wings and thighs, specifically.

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