On today’s episode of the Brick and Mortar Reborn podcast, Bobby speaks with Matt Ensero, President and Founder of Wing It On!, a fast casual concept focusing on serving authentic buffalo wings for takeout or dine-in. They discuss Matt’s journey from pivoting from a career in finance and sales to bootstrapping a “wing joint for wing nuts” — and why slow, patient growth was the key to Wing It On!’s success. They also discuss how Wing It On! leverages technology to enhance the customer experience and improve order accuracy, how to hire the best operators for your business, and the necessity of experiencing what your customers are experiencing.

Topics discussed:

  • Matt’s journey to founding Wing It On!, going from a “fanatical chicken wing eater” as a teenager, to making his own wings on game day, to pivoting from a career in finance and sales to open a “wing joint for wing nuts.”
  • How Wing It On! scaled to 13 locations and recently completed a merge with Craveworthy Brands — but did so through slow and steady growth to ensure they got things right at every step.
  • How Matt attributes Wing It On!’s success to being patient in scaling, and finding the right people who are passionate and have skill sets that fill in the gaps.
  • How Wing It On! creates great experiences for their customers through sports content, music, self-service kiosks, and a focus on order accuracy and quality.
  • The challenges Matt faced in the early days of developing his restaurant concept, and the challenges Wing It On! faced and overcame during COVID.
  • How Wing It On! utilizes technology to create their in-location experiences, and how they’re experimenting with automated AI phone ordering to get customer orders correct.
  • Advice for those opening new restaurants, and why experiencing what your customers are experiencing is key.

 

Guest Quotes: 

“I’ve always taken the more methodical approach to franchising. There’s a lot of companies out there that come out of the woodwork, they open 30, 50 stores within two, three years, and then they have a consolidation period. My goal is, yes, we want to hit the turbo thrusters, but you can’t do that until you plug all the holes in your fuselage so that you’re ready for takeoff. So I always believed in shoring up the system, putting the wings on the plane first before you take off.” (9:05)

“That challenge in those early years was to find great people who were willing to buy into this little up-and-coming wing joint out of Connecticut. But again, if you take that methodical, that patient approach to franchising, where you don’t have to go from zero to 100 overnight, then you could wait. You could say no to the wrong candidates. You could bring in the right people who fit the culture, people who share your vision, who share your passion for wings.” (11:02)

“So what we look at is solutions that improve our customer experience without taking away from the service element. Customers right now, they are not as concerned about speed of service as they used to be. All the surveys that we’re reading and stuff that’s coming out is saying that customers are more concerned about order accuracy and the quality of the product than they are speed of service.” (16:52)

“Always put yourself in the customer’s shoes, especially early on. The earlier you could put yourself in the customer’s shoes, the better. Ask yourself, is this an experience that I would willingly opt into if it wasn’t my restaurant?” (18:28)

“Another challenge that we had, however, was labor — again, no surprise in the restaurant industry. So we focused on ways to get more efficient with less staff, including adding the addition of self-service kiosks that we put at all of our locations. This took a lot of the labor burden off of our undermanned frontline associates so that they could focus on preparing orders and getting them out the door.” (12:49)