- Wingstop began offering bone-in thighs and boneless, breaded "Thigh Bites" on its menu Wednesday, just three months after it launched virtual brand Thighstop, according to a press release.
- To promote this offering, Wingstop will introduce "Thigh Thursday," which allows online guests to add regular Thigh Bites to any order for $4.49. Diners can also order a Thigh Bites meal for two for $13.99, which includes up to two flavors of regular boneless Thigh Bites, large fries or veggie sticks, two dips and two 20-ounce drinks.
- Thighstop generated over 4 billion media impressions overall, with 3 billion accrued just a few days after its launch in June, Wingstop CEO Charles Morrison told investors during the chain's Q2 2021 earnings call.
Wingstop's virtual brand strategy showcases an interesting use case for these concepts, which are often deployed to strengthen digital sales: Virtual brands can be a testing ground for new menu items before they roll out across a restaurant's system.
"We had a huge splash when we launched [Thighstop], generat[ing] a lot of traction against what would be a traditional launch of a new product," Morrison said on the Q2 call.
Launching a virtual brand helped create a lot of press for Wingstop, Morrison said. Thighstop's success also showed that Wingstop is already a "great virtual brand concept," he said. The company is on track to exceed $1.5 billion in digital sales, and this channel made up almost 65% of Wingstop's total sales mix during Q2 2021.
"We've always felt that it was right to fold [Thighstop] back into the Wingstop brand once we established the product and the positioning, and then I think what we're hearing from our fans is bring it into Wingstop," Morrison said.
Adding the virtual brand also didn't create operational challenges for Wingstop, he said, because thighs cook in about the same amount of time as bone-in chicken wings.
Guests attempting to order from Thighstop.com will be redirected to Wingstop to order, but customers can still order from Thighstop through DoorDash, a company spokesperson said in an email.
Thighstop's integration with Wingstop comes as rivals experience their own success with virtual brands. Brinker's It's Just Wings virtual concept, for example, generated $170 million in sales during its first full year in operation and led the company to launch a second virtual brand.