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Is a leading U.S. restaurant chain preparing to launch a national campaign in which chicken wings will be the featured menu item?
Officials with Buffalo Wild Wings have reason to believe so.
With chicken wings as the cornerstone of the chain’s business, Buffalo Wild Wings (BWW) has kept its eyes on not only the current price of wings, but also the amount of wings that are in cold storage in the United States.
Speaking during BWW’s most recent quarterly earnings call, Chief Operating Officer James Schmidt said that during the first two months of its second quarter wing prices were around $1.93 per pound, compared to $1.79 per pound during the second quarter of fiscal year 2015.
Sally Smith, BWW’s CEO, added that the company has also learned that there are more wings in cold storage than a year ago.
According to the USDA’s most recent Cold Storage report, issued on April 22, at the end of March the U.S. had 76.9 million pounds of chicken wings in cold storage, showing a steady growth from the 68.2 million pounds in cold storage at the end of February. The end-of-March figures are up dramatically from the 42.6 million pounds of wings in cold storage at the end of March 2015.
When asked about the current wing supply in cold storage, Smith replied: “We’re expecting that one of the bigger players perhaps … will have some sort of a promotion. We’ve seen that in the past, and I do think that it has (been) what’s kept wing prices elevated in a time when we would normally see it decline a little bit.”
Heather Pribyl, investor relations official, added that the company has heard that some company may be planning a promotion in the fall.
The cold storage situation lends itself to a flashback to 2013, when chicken wing prices jumped along with the amount of wings in cold storage. At the end of August of that year, wing supplies jumped 83 percent when compared to where they were on August 31, 2012, and were up 12 percent when compared to the previous month.
McDonald’s launched Mighty Wings nationwide in September 2013 after testing the menu item at locations in the Chicago and Atlanta markets. The promotion was only temporary and Mighty Wings have since disappeared from the company’s national menu.
If Smith’s hunch is correct, that leaves us to wonder if Mighty Wings are returning, or will it be another chain launching a similar product. I guess we’ll have to stay tuned.