Wild Wing Cafe Declares Bankruptcy

BUST: Wild Wing Cafe Declares Bankruptcy

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Looking at the website of this MULO (multi-location) brand, one would think it has all the makings of the queen of the coop. Wild Wing Cafe boasts locally-sourced ingredients, a loyalty program, live entertainment, and even free wings with a $5 purchase. It states they have “40 locations and growing.”

But the franchise just joined a growing list of MULO restaurant brands that have filed for bankruptcy.

The reasons are complex. The labor and supply chain issues that began in the pandemic still impact the fast-casual dining space. Brands can’t move quickly enough to incorporate cost-saving measures like self-service and drive-through options into their operations.

Wings as a category don’t seem to be the problem. Consumption is on the upswing and Americans eat about 4.4 billion of them over the course of a year.

Axum Capital Partners acquired the North Carolina-based Wild Wing brand in 2012. Former pro football player Muhsin Muhamed was one of the investors. After closing locations, Wild Wing now runs six corporate restaurants and 18 franchise locations, according to restaurant industry trade media. 

History has taught us that a bankruptcy filing does not necessarily mean brand demise. Boston Market (another chicken-related brand) returned from a Chapter 11 filing and restructuring.

Lessons we can take away are:

  • Bankruptcy filing doesn’t necessarily mean consumers are no longer interested in a category.
  • Storefront closings can put MULO brands in a better position for growth in the future.
  • When a MULO restaurant brand closes locations, how it handles the news and online listings are critical. Retaining fans is important, and distinguishing a reboot and “going out of business” can make or break a brand in the long run.

Knowing why the chicken crossed the road may remain an eternal mystery. The media will have many theories about why Wild Wing seems to be losing the chicken fight against a wide range of competitors, and we will keep our eyes on this category which shows no signs of slowing down — especially during football season!

Nancy A Shenker, senior editor with Street Fight, is a former big brand (Citibank, Mastercard, Reed Exhibitions) marketing strategist and leader. She has been featured in Inc.com, the New York Times and Forbes.