This Wingers Franchisee Turned His Childhood Dreams into a Restaurant Empire

Brad McDougal Sketches His Success as a Wingers Restaurant & Alehouse Franchisee

Why Multi-Unit Owner Brad McDougal Decided to Go All-In on the Popular Restaurant Franchise

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When other kids were playing with crayons and coloring books, 10-year-old Brad McDougal was designing his future. “My parents would find me with a piece of paper that would have circles and squares mapping out my perfect restaurant floor plan and menu,” he says.

It wasn’t long before make-believe became reality.

At age 14, the budding entrepreneur was employing three or four people, including one of his teachers, in his Sno Shack Shaved Ice franchise. He was also learning the restaurant business while working for his father and brother, who owned and operated more than 15 Papa Murphy’s locations.

While attending college, McDougal worked in real estate, but restaurants remained his passion. “I looked at multiple food franchises, but loved the unique, addictive food at Wingers,” he says. At age 25, McDougal opened his own Wingers restaurant in Nampa, Idaho, near Boise. Sixteen years later, he has three Wingers locations in the Boise market with plans to open four more over the next five years. Several key team members have been with him for more than a decade, and he’s involved his sons in the business, too.

Huge ROI After Wingers’ Rebranding

McDougal describes a pivotal development that catapulted Wingers’ success. He explains that in the early 2000s, Wingers, like many franchise concepts, used multiple microwaves to quickly prepare frozen food. The interior was “bar-like,” he says. Despite the cultlike popularity of Wingers’ Original Amazing Sauce and all McDougal’s efforts, sales had reached a plateau.

“In 2016, at the start of the craft beer explosion, we spent time visiting breweries in the Pacific Northwest and we knew Wingers could be much better. In 2017, we embarked on a total revamp of Wingers Grill and Bar that included an extensive remodel and rebranding of the Nampa location. We added more community seats to the bar, extended our beer offering from 12 taps to 40 featuring the best beer from local brewers, added signature cocktails, and created a fun happy-hour atmosphere,” McDougal says.

Wingers restaurant franchise
Wingers restaurant franchise
Wingers is a family affair for McDougal: He loves involving his boys (above) and helping them learn that success can come from hard work. His Dad (top) taught him an incredible lesson when he opened his first restaurant 18 years ago, “Focus on the people, and the money will follow.”

“We threw our microwaves away and went from frozen prepared food to making everything from scratch, including hand-breaded fingers and wings, dressings, sauces and fresh salsas, and we added salmon, pastas, and new variations with our popular Sticky Fingers.

“We remodeled the building featuring handmade wooden tables and warm colors, and focused on lighting and music to create a place where you would expect to spend some money on great local craft beer and fresh, chef-driven food,” he says. “Within three weeks of re-opening, our sales had increased over 40% and we’ve had constant 5-10% growth every year since. I remember not too long ago we celebrated hitting the $2 million mark at some of our restaurants and now we are planning for the $3 million mark.”

McDougal with his oldest son, Talin.

Going All-In With Wingers

Having also owned and operated seven Papa Murphy’s restaurants and multiple Dickey’s Barbecue Pit locations as an owner and area developer, McDougal recently sold these concepts to concentrate exclusively on growth and opportunities with Wingers.

Reflecting on his decision to become a Wingers franchisee, McDougal says he followed the advice of his brother. “Something he taught me while looking for a franchise was to first ask a simple question: If I were to go and copy that concept exactly, would it cost me more to do so than the royalties charged?” he says. “Does the concept provide value in the franchise fee in terms of 4-6%-plus in purchasing power, marketing, training, menu development? When we looked at Wingers, it was a no-brainer.”

“One of the things that’s unique about Wingers is that they are large enough that they’re able to provide significant cost savings on purchasing and have enough stores to pull together for marketing, but small enough that you have a direct line to the owners, Eric and Scott Slaymaker, and the leadership team,” McDougal says. “They know your name. They know and have been in your restaurant and know your managers. No need to wait for a meeting and talk through a franchise director – just call up and talk about an issue directly with a decision maker.”

The support McDougal has received from the Slaymakers, who have experience as franchisees as well as franchisor, has been key to his success and commitment. “There have been multiple times in meetings when I bring up something that affects us as franchisees, and it strikes a chord,” McDougal says. “They put on their franchisee hats and understand how it affects both sides. The Slaymakers really believe that they are successful if their franchise partners are successful.”

For more information about the Wingers Restaurant & Alehouse franchise, visit

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Lisa Ocker is an award-winning writer and editor whose career of more than 30 years includes work as a staff reporter at two major newspapers in South Florida, and as a freelance stringer for The New York Times. She has served as editor of the lifestyle magazine, Boca Raton, and Success, a national newsstand publication she helped launch. She now lives and works from Santa Fe, NM.
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