December 2, 2023

Given the scarcity of chicken wings and soaring prices, Wingstop said Monday it was “hacking” its own brand by launching Thighstop, a virtual restaurant that serves crispy chicken legs.

As with the original Wingstop, customers can choose from 11 flavors and opt for either a boned or boneless thigh. The new brand will be available for delivery or take-away via DoorDash or on in 1,400 locations across the country, the company said.

Chicken wings became increasingly popular with both eat-in and take-out customers during the pandemic. But guests are now staring at both price increases and scarce supplies. Port delays and labor shortages have caused a range of goods from computer chips to chlorine tablets to become scarce.

The National Chicken Council did not describe the dwindling supply of chicken as a “shortage,” but told CNBC in a recent email that the number of broilers raised for meat fell 4% in the first quarter and the pounds produced in the year decreased by 3% over the year. Production started in April, the council announced.

However, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, chicken wing prices averaged $ 2.72 a pound last week, almost 20 cents higher than the same week last year.

Major chicken producers in Texas were hit by a major winter storm immediately after the Super Bowl, which affected availability, said Tom Super, senior vice president of communications for the council.

“Even small gaps in the supply of wings can cause price volatility,” he said.

In the spring, Wingstop CEO Charlie Morrison said the company was planning ahead and could meet demand.

“The pandemic has created challenges to occupy the farms in order to be able to slaughter enough chickens to meet the demands of the market. And I think that’s seen everywhere. I mean the price of chicken is high across the board. especially high for wings, “said Morrison at the time.

Papa John’s CEO Rob Lynch also mentioned labor as a factor in wing supplies in an interview with CNBC.

Morrison positions the new strategy as an opportunity.

“Wingstop pioneered the concept of chicken wings as the center of the plate. Though Thighstop is still in its infancy, we’ve been researching boned and boneless thighs as the center of the plate options for some time to offer fans new opportunities to enjoy the bold, distinctive and coveted flavors of Enjoy Wingstop, “he said in a statement.

Coding Note: Thighstop CEO Charlie Morrison will be attending CNBC’s “The Exchange” on Monday at 1:30 PM ET.