Imagine this: You’re driving around with friends, or maybe, you’re about to turn on a movie or football game. You’re craving something savory, spicy, and affordable. You decide to order a large bundle of chicken… thighs? According to leading chicken wing chain Wingstop, this is what the future might look like. But there are a lot of skeptics to win over.
On Monday, the company announced the launch of a new virtual brand devoted to “one of the juiciest and most flavorful parts of the chicken.” The new “concept,” called Thighstop, offers the same 11-flavor menu and boneless options popularized by Wingstop. As of now, customers can order thighs for takeout or delivery. “Thighstop thighs eat like a wing, but with more meat,” a representative for Wingstop told Refinery29 in a statement. “Thighs are incredibly juicy and flavorful, and our fans have found that to be true, even in the short 24 hours Thighstop has been live.”
But there’s a reason the wing brand is suddenly — uncharacteristically —pivoting away from wings. This spring, many local restaurants and American chains alike began experiencing a supply shortage. Some Buffalo Wild Wings regulars complained on Reddit that their local stores were running out of wings. Bojangles tweeted that it was “experiencing a system-wide shortage.” Anecdotally, other chicken lovers have watched their local bars and pubs “temporarily” raise wing costs.
There isn’t one clear reason supply has gone down, but the National Chicken Council claimed the industry is still trying to catch up after major poultry-producing states like Texas struggled with harsh weather conditions and power outages last winter. But companies like Wingstop have also received more and more business throughout the pandemic — according to Restaurant Business Online, the chain reported a record-breaking sales increase in the first quarter of 2021. In a statement to the Associated Press, National Chicken Council representative Tom Super said that the surge makes sense: Americans are reaching for wings out of “a desire for comfort food during the pandemic.” Super also added that wings are ideal for takeout and delivery, given they “travel well and hold up during delivery conditions.”
On one hand, this is great news for Wingstop, but the phenomenon has also driven costs up. “The price of wings a year ago was as low as 98 cents [per pound],” Morrison told CNN. “Today, it’s at $3.22. So it’s a meaningful difference.” According to CNN, thighs cost about half as much as wings.
Wing lovers, however, aren’t yet convinced. “Wingstop selling thighs? I’ll just catch y’all when the wing shortage is over,” wrote one user on Twitter. Others made fun of Thighstop’s first advertisement, in which Rick Ross tells viewers we’re “doing thighs” now. A few people, however, were down to give the new product a shot.
And then, in a surreal, confusing twist, Wingstop started feuding with Hooters, which is really when you know things have gone too far.
Thighs might never be the new wings. But when it comes to combatting the chicken wing supply shortage, the retailer is clearly pulling out all the stops (pun intended).