Chicken joint to open eight locations
The Philadelphia region will soon be home to eight new Wingstop restaurants.
Richard Johnson of Jomartt Enterprises, L.P. has signed a multi-unit development agreement and expects to open his first location this winter.
Johnson, a former McDonald’s franchisee, was drawn to Wingstop’s ease of operations and focus on cooked to-order wings.
“I was attracted to the idea of a wing place that would be a local, neighborhood spot, where people can get really good wings,” said Johnson. “I started doing my research and was impressed with how the Wingstop brand works. We tried the food and kept going back for more. I loved how fresh the food was and the variety of sauces.”
Headquartered in Richardson, Texas, Wingstop has more than 500 restaurants across the United States and Mexico.
Johnson first heard about Wingstop on the radio while driving around Philadelphia with his youngest son, Tristan.
“My son and I were in the car, listening to the radio, and we heard a DJ talking about Rick Ross opening a Wingstop franchise in Memphis,” he recalled.
“My son said ‘Dad, if Rick Ross has a Wingstop, you need one, too.’”
Johnson, who was born and raised in Philadelphia, attended Northeast High School and the University of Michigan, but always knew his calling was the restaurant industry. His uncle Bob Wright, a McDonald’s owner/operator, introduced him to food service and he quickly developed a passion for the business.
“I learned early on how to run a restaurant from my uncle,” he said. “I worked my way up, from mopping the floors to cooking to managing, and eventually took over my own store in North Philadelphia with financial help from my mom. I purchased a second McDonald’s location in 2000 and ran that for eight years.”
Near the end of his 20-year franchise agreement with McDonald’s, Johnson began searching for his next great restaurant adventure.
“I’d spent 35 years of my life with McDonald’s, either working in my uncle’s store, or running my own. I learned a lot from the business, but began to think about the possibility of something else. I was ready to focus on a concept with a simpler system. I wanted to find a company that I could partner with, take pride in what I was selling, and grow the brand in Philly”
With a sole focus on cooked-to-order chicken, the Wingstop menu features traditional and boneless wings, strips and the chain’s newest offering, Glider sandwiches — all sauced and tossed in 10 flavors.
“After I visited the Wingstop corporate office in Dallas, I was impressed with how friendly the people were, and realized I could see myself as part of the team,” he said.
“Plus, I like that it’s still a fairly new company that’s expanding. Wingstop is really just starting out in the Northeast, and I wanted to be involved in a concept I can help promote and grow.”
During his time with McDonald’s, Johnson received numerous awards for his community involvement with local churches and schools and plans to create the same outreach with his Wingstop locations.
“I love Philly and want to immerse Wingstop in the community,” he added.
“My oldest son Trevor will attend Temple University in the fall. All three of my kids grew up in the restaurant business, and we will operate Wingstop as a family business. With Wingstop I can build multiple locations and create something for my wife, my children, and the people here in the Philly area.”
Johnson’s development agreement includes Philadelphia and Montgomery counties. He’s already searching for his first three sites, which will likely open in the Roxborough area, Wyncote, Pa. and Northeast Philly.
“Things are moving really fast,” he added.
“I’m ready to roll and expect to open in November or December. My goal is to be selling wings by the time high school football and the NFL playoffs rev up.”
Johnson’s foray into the Wingstop business comes at a time when the company is experiencing significant growth. Company officials recently announced that sales were up 10.5 percent for the first quarter. The company has signed franchise agreements resulting in the opening of 58 new locations. In addition to Philadelphia, Wingstop restaurants will be opening in Bethlehem and Allentown, Pa.; Detroit, Lexington, S.C., Metairie, La.; Savannah, Ga.; Columbia, S.C., Phoenix and Hawaii.
“We are coming off one of our most successful quarters in the company’s history,” said Jim Flynn, Wingstop president and CEO.
“A sales increase into the double digits is a huge milestone for our brand. We credit new partnerships with experienced franchisees, newly implemented social media programs, and an increased focus on local store marketing efforts within our communities.”
Wingstop was acquired in 2010 by Roark Capital Group, an Atlanta-based private equity firm that specializes in business and consumer service companies with attractive growth prospects and revenues ranging from $20 million to $1 billion.