Co-Founders Eric and Scott Slaymaker Tap Knowledge to Foster Franchisee Success
Eric and Scott Slaymaker (above) know the frustrations and joys of being franchisees. That’s because they’ve been there with some of the largest restaurant brands. As founders of Wingers Restaurant & Alehouse, the brothers also understand the role of the franchisor.
“We know what franchisees go through. We think that’s a huge advantage for us as we work with the franchisee system,” says Eric Slaymaker, who serves as CEO and Founder. “Our whole goal is to help our franchisees succeed, and the more successful they are, the more successful we are.”
Scott Slaymaker agrees. “We do have a somewhat unique perspective, having been on the franchisee side for so long with Sizzler, Tony Roma’s, TGI Fridays,” he says. “We’ve also learned a lot as a franchisor about making sure we maintain the brand standards and obligation we have to the entire Wingers brand community.”
Starting with a 2,700-square-foot Wingers American Diner opened in 1993 in Bountiful, Utah, the brand has grown to include 23 locations in five states in the Mountain West, with others in development in Texas and Oklahoma. “We hadn’t looked to expand outside of the Moutain West until recently,” Eric says. “Now we feel like we’re in a good position to expand to the Midwest and continue to grow in the West.”
In launching Wingers, Eric says they believed they could be successful in providing the same quality experience as larger restaurants, but in a smaller space that wasn’t necessarily in a big city. He explains that larger restaurants of 6,000 square feet or more are more expensive to develop and operate and need to be in metropolitan areas to generate sufficient revenue – say $3.5-5 million annually – to be successful.
“Our typical facility is 4,000-4,500 square feet, and our model is geared to be profitable in the $2-2.5 million range. A Wingers Alehouse can be prosperous at lower sales volume levels than many other national restaurant brands. This opens up a lot of areas for us to be very successful, particularly in smaller and mid-sized markets that a lot of our national competitors can’t even consider. This is a unique competitive advantage,” Eric says.
The Secret Sauce
Serving fantastic food and drinks in a casual, family-friendly, sports-bar-like atmosphere has been a Wingers tradition. But the menu goes beyond the traditional. While also featuring a variety of burgers – besides beef, think “salmon pounder” and “avocado bacon chicken pounder” – Wingers also serves pastas, salads, Southwestern favorites, and vegetarian and gluten-free options.
Wingers also took chicken wings to a new level with its “Original Amazing Sauce.” When added to fresh, hand-breaded chicken fingers, the Wingers team had another winner: “Sticky Fingers.” However, the real secret sauce contributing to Wingers’ success has been its “Alehouse” concept. “We used to run about eight to 10 beers on tap, and we decided to expand that to 40 beers on tap. We remodeled the first test store and upgraded the menu items at the same time,” Eric says. “In 2016, we tested our first Alehouse concept at a store just outside of Boise, Idaho. Sales and guest traffic were immediately up 60-70% the day we re-opened, and it’s continued to grow from there.”
Most stores have now been converted, and we have been seeing results that have doubled and even tripled sales, Eric says. “At that point, we realized this formula is really working for us, and that’s why it’s time for us to grow outside of the Mountain West, and bring on more great franchisees who want to be part of the brand.”
We are very much in a relationship business. Our mission statement is very simple: ‘Creating amazing experiences.’Scott Slaymaker, co-founder of Wingers
Ideal Wingers Franchisee
An ideal franchisee, Scott says, needs to be well capitalized, “and they’re also going to be somebody who’s going to roll up their sleeves, work hard and be patient. But more than anything else, we’re looking for leaders. Our experience, whether it’s in the hospitality industry or anywhere else, is that great leadership is what creates winning combinations.
“We are very much in a relationship business,” Scott says. “Our mission statement is very simple: ‘Creating amazing experiences.’ And that goes for guests as well as team members, franchisees and vendors.”
The Slaymakers’ goal with Wingers isn’t to become the biggest, Scott says. “But we certainly want to be relevant and one of the best, and we want to do it with people we want to work with, people who respect one another and have the same vision and goals.”
Eric says his most gratifying experiences have involved visiting a restaurant incognito and seeing all these elements come together. “To be able to sit in a corner and watch our teams executing the way they’re supposed to, and their energy is fantastic and becomes contagious, creating a positive energy with our guests, is one of the best feelings in the world for me.”
For more information about the Wingers Restaurant & Alehouse franchise, visit https://wingerbros.com/franchising-opportunities/.