Wingstop CEO Charlie Morrison isn't nervous that his new Thighstop brand will go head-to-head with the Colonel's KFC.
"Our brand is so unique, we don't just fry up a bucket of chicken — we sauce and toss all of our chicken with our 11 bold and distinct flavors. We think that's the differentiator for this brand. We believe we have the opportunity now to expand the product line, leverage more of the chicken. We are still going to give each product its own feature. We won't sell it in a bucket like the rest do," Morrison told Yahoo Finance Live.
And with those fighting words, let the battle for thigh domination commence.
Wingstop said this week it will launch Thighstop, a digital-only brand that will serve up an array of different thigh-forward flavors. In addition to bone-in thighs, the brand will offer the supposed holy grail of chicken fingers — juicy boneless thighs.
The launch — which has caught fire on social media for its well, let's just say clever branding — comes as Wingstop looks to diversify its cost base away from inflationary chicken wings.
With many fast-food chains pursuing chicken options during the pandemic, that has pushed up the prices of mainstay dinner food wings. The price of wings has more than tripled over the past year and in some cases, has caused a shortage.
Morrison said Wingstop has ample supply of wings.
To be sure, now is a good time for Wingstop to be experimenting with a new brand as the company's business continues to be hot.
First quarter domestic same-store sales surged 20.7%, continuing more than two years of impressive gains. Adjusted operating profits rose 46.2% despite inflationary pressures around chicken wings and labor.
Wingstop's stock is up 61% over the past two years, according to Yahoo Finance Plus data. That has handily outperformed shares of rivals McDonald's (+15%), Yum! Brands (+6%) and Wendy's (+19%).
"We think thighs are the most under appreciated piece of the chicken, left at the bottom of the bucket. That's not fair," Morrison said.
Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.
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