In June Wingstop Restaurants Inc. pulled the wraps off its new website, which features user-generated content, makes ordering simpler and adapts automatically to all computer devices, including smartphones.

The 580-unit Richardson, Texas-based Wingstop’s new web portal puts a premium on social media, highlighting customers’ photos, videos and comments, but the main goal of the redesign was to make online ordering, from whatever device, easier.

Jason McEachern, Wingstop’s vice president of technology, said the year-and-a-half-long process to revise the company’s online presence “laser-focused on what most people go to our website for,” which is finding a store and placing an order.

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Guests’ public posts to Twitter and Facebook accounts that mention Wingstop are rotated through carousel feeds on the website as well, and all are reviewed before being posted to the public. The site also highlights links on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, and one section calls out a “fan of the week.”

McEachern talked with Nation’s Restaurant News about the new website and where the company sees it going,

What are the critical parts of a restaurant website in 2013?

We went through an exhaustive research process with focus groups, guest intercepts and standard surveys internally and externally. We took an open-ended approach: “What do you really like about websites, regardless of whether they are even in the restaurant industry?”

We tried to find similarities. What it really came back to, as it related to Wingstop, was: “Who are you? Where are you? And how do I order?” It was that simple.

Wingstop appWhat mistakes do you think restaurant websites make?

A lot of websites over-complicate it. Sometimes there is too much information.

We wanted to make it very simple and easy for a web user to accomplish the task at hand, which is ultimately to get them to order — and order online.

Navigation is critical. Integration with other platforms is more critical than ever, especially as the technology becomes more available. That integration is with social media and directly with online ordering integrated with the point-of-sale system. Those were the critical areas.

What was Wingstop’s approach?

Most people probably know what Wingstop is or probably have visited a Wingstop. So we don’t need to sell them on a great product. They want to know where we are at and how to order. Our main page has multiple ways to find us. You can do city, you can do state, you can do map, you can do area, you can do ZIP code. It’s not five clicks to finally get to order.

How important are things like native global positioning?

GPS will be coming in additional phases. The next thing is a heavy focus on mobile, especially when you look at 4G and how much more heavily adopted that can be. Speed constraints and bandwidth constraints aren’t what they used to be. Our new design uses adaptive response programming, so regardless of device it will look great. You can go from a laptop to a tablet to a mobile [phone], and it’s not a different version.

You are highlighting Twitter and fan videos on the site now. How important is that to Wingstop?

It’s very important now. The user-generated content and the integration with the social-media platforms is much easier today than it ever has been. I think that adds the fresh content to the site. It also lets people very quickly and easily find out what others are saying about the product. In our approach, it was a crucial piece.

What is the long-term view about restaurant websites?

The technology is there now so you don’t know where a concept’s web presence begins and where Facebook ends, or where Twitter begins and online ordering ends. If you are on Twitter and Wingstop pops up, you should be one click away from ordering.

Breaking down the new site

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What were some of the challenges with this website rollout?

One of the biggest challenges was content management, which includes content filtering — for lack of a better term. The entire site is built on a very sophisticated and flexible content management system.

We have designated administrators, so as quickly as they are alerted that new content is available for preview, it can be approved and posted almost immediately. Effectively, it’s a requisition process. When new user-generated content does get submitted, we have a quick and easy and speedy approval.

Where does that administrator reside in the corporate structure?

These online content administrators reside in the marketing side and are part of our marketing team, as well as our public relations group.

What is the most robust part of the site?

The user-generated content was a big step forward for us. If you look at our old web presence, there wasn’t much, if any, real-time integration. That was a big step forward for us.

The adaptive response programming was a big step forward for us technology-wise. We’re not constantly updating a mobile version and a web version and then the tablet. Now has the same great look and feel across any device.

In the month since the website went live, have you noticed any trends?

Our app orders have increased. What you see from a search-engine optimization standpoint is that it’s much easier to navigate directly to the app, especially on the mobile phones. It’s a much quicker and easier path to get to the app. The awareness of the app has increased.

What advice do you have for others considering redoing their websites?

It’s about the guest experience online and not as much about what we think the guest experience should be. It needs to be very simple. We have to make it quick.

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