Operators are always flattered to hear, “You should open a location in my town,” but committing to building a chain’s next unit wherever the outcry is the loudest can be a risky business proposition.

Yet with its “I Want My Quaker Steak & Lube” contest on Facebook, the Sharon, Pa.-based brand of about 60 chicken wing restaurants did just that, slating Toledo, Ohio, as the site for its next restaurant after Facebook fans voted for that city in droves.

Chief executive John Longstreet admitted in an interview with Nation’s Restaurant News that putting site selection into the hands of the restaurant’s fans for this social media contest was “a little dangerous,” but Quaker Steak found it to be an effective way to identify territories with underserved brand fans, called “Lubies.”

From Feb. 6 to April 22, more than 2,500 Facebook fans participated in “I Want My Quaker Steak & Lube” to vote for their cities. Dozens of initial suggestions were accepted, and then the brand’s management culled the list to 10 finalists. Those cities, in the order they finished, were: Toledo, Ohio; Orlando, Fla.; State College, Pa.; Philadelphia; Indianapolis; Altoona, Pa.; Ft. Myers, Fla.; Detroit; Sioux Falls, S.D.; and Houston.

In all, the contest made more than 400,000 Facebook impressions, Quaker Steak disclosed. Of the 2,670 total votes cast, Toledo won with 750 votes.

Quaker Steak made sure to marshal its resources effectively by following the “American Idol” model of paring down all suggestions to the 10 finalist cities with its own input, Longstreet said, rather than letting Facebook fans vote on sites in far-flung places unable to support a Lube location.

“If, say, Warren, Pa., had won, they have a population of maybe 10,000 people,” Longstreet said. “Even if they’d had a lot of votes, we couldn’t have put that city in the top 10.”

Yet some of the finalists were located quite far from areas where Quaker Steak has major penetration or marketing support, he noted. Fans in Florida mobilized support for Orlando and Ft. Myers, even though the state has only one Quaker Steak, hours away in Pinellas Park, near Clearwater.

“We wanted to be actually committed to opening wherever won, because we try to be a very transparent brand,” Longstreet said. “We didn’t say we would absolutely do it, but I felt we had to.”