GuestMetrics analyzed point-of-sale data from more than 250 million restaurant transactions during the year and found that chicken wing sales grew 10.7 percent overall in 2012 compared with the previous year. The total number of chicken wing orders increased 7.3 percent during the year, and menu prices for the item rose 3.4 percent.
However, the vast majority of that growth — 81 percent — was not actually in traditional wings, but in "boneless wings" made from chicken breast. Boneless wings accounted for about 14 percent of wing sales in 2012, GuestMetrics found.
“This shift in consumer preferences should prove to be a further positive for restaurants selling chicken wings,” said GuestMetrics vice president of strategy and insights Peter Reidhead in a press release.
Although chicken wings have traditionally been less expensive for restaurants to purchase than breast meat, the reverse is currently true, according to commodities analyst and Nation’s Restaurant News contributor John Barone, president of Market Vision Inc. He said that as of Jan. 25, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's price for whole wings of all sizes was $2.10 per pound. The price of boneless, skinless chicken breast was $1.36 per pound.
And even though the price of chicken breast is cheaper, GuestMetrics found that restaurants fetched a higher price on boneless wings versus traditional wings in 2012. The average price for regular chicken wings was $6.87 during the year, and for boneless wings it was $7.99, according to the firm.
The growing popularity of the version with a more favorable food cost presents an opportunity for restaurants to gain more profit from wing sales, especially during Super Bowl Sunday, one of the biggest days of the year for chicken wing consumption. On its website, the National Chicken Council, the chicken industry’s trade association, predicts that 1.23 billion wing portions will be eaten on Super Bowl Sunday — nearly 5 percent of the total projected consumption for 2013.
GuestMetrics warned against price inflation, however. The firm reported that as commodity inflation increased toward the end of 2012, the price consumers paid for wings rose by 13 percent in December, which resulted in a slower order rate.
Contact Bret Thorn at email@example.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary