Wing n’ It soaring

Daniel
Daniel MacEachern
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Restaurant set to open fifth location in less than two years — two more on the way

Nicole Dunphy (left) and Stephanie Hillier offer friendly service to the customers of Wing n' It on Bates Hill. — Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

Given Wing  n’ It’s aviation iconography, saying the business is taking off comes across as a little corny.

But with the St. John’s-based chicken wing restaurant franchise about to open its fifth location — not even two years after its flagship location on Bates Hill downtown — it’s difficult to avoid.

Kim McFarlane, one of four partners — along with husband Glen McFarlane and friends Dave Deane and Sonia Ciccone — who opened the original spot in February 2011, said the idea grew out of their time in Ontario, where Deane and Ciccone operated a Wild Wing franchise in Innisfil for several years and befriended the McFarlanes.

“We moved from Ontario four years ago. We are from Newfoundland, and we were gone for 17 years,” said McFarlane.

“We always said this would really take off in Newfoundland. Any place you ever go to up there, there’s wings. There’s a whole bunch of places up there.”

Deane and Ciccone told the McFarlanes they’d be happy to put their restaurant experience to use in Newfoundland, so when Kim McFarlane was transferred to Newfoundland at her old job — the restaurant is now her full-time career — they decided to fill a wing void in the Newfoundland restaurant market.

Twenty-one months after opening, there are four Wing n’ Its in Newfoundland: in addition to downtown St. John’s, there’s one on Kenmount Road, one in Gander and one in Grand Falls-Windsor. A Bay Roberts location is due to open within two months, and there are outlets coming in Corner Brook and Clarenville in the next six months.

The company is also fielding interest from potential franchisees in other provinces in Atlantic Canada and beyond.

“We have an inquiry right now that we’re working on for Moncton, one for Charlottetown, P.E.I. We have one for Goose Bay, we have one for Halifax. We have three inquiries out west.”

McFarlane says she expected the restaurant to do well — it’s the speed at which it has that surprised her.

“Of course in your heart and your soul, you just want it successful,” she said. “To the magnitude that it has taken off, uh-uh. We wanted it to. After a couple of months, people were starting to know that we were here. We felt the interest, we got inquiries. People ask us, ‘Is this a franchise that you bought from the mainland?’ No, this is something that we created, and we got consultation on how to do franchises, and lo and behold, here we are. It’s exciting to see, because it’s a unique restaurant.”

“Here we are” is a franchise that goes through, McFarlane estimates, 2,600 pounds of wings a day among all four locations, and is looking at $3.4 million to $3.6 million in sales this year, about $2 million more than last year. The restaurant draws on flavours the owners tried and experimented with, as well as Deane and Ciccone’s experience — especially since the McFarlanes have a construction company that builds the restaurants.

“As we move, we’ve found that each location, there’s a tweak, a little bit of a better tweak to our build,” said McFarlane. At this point, the biggest worry may be spreading too soon too quickly — but McFarlane shakes that off.

 “We’re not afraid. We have all of our means in place,” she said.

“Our franchisee is our No. 1 priority, and our name. We make sure that our company is represented well and making sure all the processes are done, and our policies and procedures. So we’re not afraid. Absolutely not.”

Ciccone, on the phone from Ontario, where she and her husband Deane still live, said she was also surprised by how rapidly the province has taken to their business.

“Dave and Glen sat down, and they had a lot of conversations and visions about where they expected to be, and I think they knew that it was going to take off. They knew it had to come to Newfoundland,” she said.

“The only thing that surprised us was how fast it took off. It’s still unbelievable to us. But we knew that Newfoundland had nothing like it, and that people would definitely be receptive to it.”

She said talks between the couples of opening up a restaurant in Newfoundland was a pipe dream at first, but one that quickly became reality.

“(They said) ‘If you guys ever sell, come to Newfoundland and open one up,’” she said. “Then, that literally happened. We sold in 2010, and then a couple months later Dave drove down to Newfoundland, and it all started.”

With restaurant, construction and human resources experience behind them, the four partners complement each other well, said Ciccone.

“We each bring a lot of experience to the table,” she said.

Deane and Ciccone don’t currently plan to move to Newfoundland, but there are frequent visits — and constant communication.

“We’re on BBM, we’re emailing, we’re constantly talking to one another, and then when we’re out there, we’re like four kids in a candy store. It’s a good partnership. I’m sure we’re bound to make some mistakes along the way — that’s natural in business — but I think that our experience will definitely help us avoid a lot of them.”

 

dmaceachern@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelegramDaniel

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Ontario, Bates Hill Innisfil Kenmount Road Gander Grand Falls-Windsor Bay Roberts Corner Brook Clarenville Atlantic Canada Moncton Charlottetown Goose Bay

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Recent comments

  • Charlie
    December 05, 2012 - 06:46

    I was there once, I won't be back. Maybe it was an off night but I didn't see or taste anything to get excited about.

  • Bear
    November 20, 2012 - 19:24

    For the ones who love to complain.....get a life!!!!!! you should be happy that this is a local company and doing well...we love the food, the service, concept and my favorite wing is red flag, and bubbas....Big congrats to the owners who again are local newfoundlanders....We will be back to both locations...keep up the great work.....

  • Dave
    November 20, 2012 - 12:32

    Love this concept! I'm a huge wing fan and this place rocks! Went to Kenmount road last night and had a time, will be returning there again soon!

  • First and last
    November 17, 2012 - 10:06

    We went to the Kenmount Road location and had to wait 45 minutes for our food and when we got it we weren't at all impressed. The wings seemed as though they had been previously cooked, they were dry on the inside and had very little flavour. It wasn't overly busy at the time and the service was very poor. We we given a 10% discount for having to wait so long. It seemed as though the cooks and waitress' couldn't keep up with the demand. I'll be sticking to Montana's for wings, way better service and taste.

  • Anon
    November 16, 2012 - 19:20

    Relish, Wingin' It, Smokes. All we need now is a genuine mexican take-out place and we're officially a have-food-province.

  • Jack
    November 14, 2012 - 20:45

    I visited the Kenmount road location a couple days go and really enjoyed it, great food, friendly waitresses, A+ all around!! And 10.99 is to much for chicken wings?? you're crazy ppl, thats not bad at all

  • Dan
    November 14, 2012 - 08:32

    The location on Bates Hill is very good, great service and great wings, the Kenmount road location is not so good with the wings, they put so little seasoning on the wings you have to get a magnifying glass to see the seasonings! I have been there three times and will not be there ever again, however I will try Bates Hill again.

  • John
    November 14, 2012 - 00:25

    Ahhhh wings..... The favourite food of the uncultured masses.Throw in a pitcher or two of beer and a basket of overpriced chicken bones and it sounds like a party waiting to happen! There's actual real food out there folks.Don't be blinded by wing joints.Never understood the appeal of such places.

  • Mr. T
    November 13, 2012 - 10:50

    This place is awesome. Awesome Wings, Cold Beery, Good service.

    • david
      November 13, 2012 - 18:21

      Cold beer !?! Really?! Wow!! I could see cold beer completely changing downtown St. John's! 'Awesome' hardly seems to be an appropriate overused, mindless description.

  • Brad
    November 12, 2012 - 13:09

    Sadly this IS a great concept but this has grown too far too fast. The price of the wings is reasonable, but you should be using buffalo wings (like most of your main competitors are). I don't mind paying ~$10 a basket of wings, but not for those two-bite ones. On the plus side, I have had pretty good service, and the sauces are tasty. But I think they need to work on a few things if they are going to be a successful franchise,

    • Red
      November 13, 2012 - 10:33

      So do Buffalo wings come from Buffalo? Is that why they're bigger? LOL Buffalo wings refers to the way they are prepared not their size.

  • NIK
    November 12, 2012 - 07:36

    It's good for a change but it'll slow down as fast as it started!! Prices are out to lunch for chicken wings lol......I think it's a bad move going too big too quick !!

  • original townie
    November 11, 2012 - 08:27

    @Jennifer.......didn't like the service. Don't go there any more baby.

    • Jennifer
      November 11, 2012 - 13:56

      Don't worry, I haven't ;)

  • Around The Bay
    November 10, 2012 - 17:12

    Coming to Bay Roberts might seem like a great idea but I hope they have researched their market. Not sure where they expect to find the business as Bay Roberts is not a lunch town, and people are loyal to JJ's. Alot of the wing 'n it's business in St. Johns comes from around the bay who are in town for the day. Bay Roberts is not a place to expect a great restaurant business to suceed unless you have been in operation here for years like JJ's or Country Delight. From what people are saying it is a fad and will fizzle out in time. Initially they will be very busy but that will change and people will go back to their old eating habits. If they are going in the location that people are guessing, a location that 2 previous restaurants have not succeeded, why do they think they will? There are several other new restaurants in the area that do not appear to be doing very well either. I do wish the owners lots of luck but highly doubt they will be that successful in this area. I think they are better off going to Carbonear which is the real business area of the bay and alot of government employees work there who go out for lunch. Bay Roberts is not a booming business town by any means with no big draw. I think the comment from Jennifer says alot when she said that the locations outside St. Johns did not have long lineups, maybe because they are not that busy. Anyway good luck to the owners and I hope they prove me wrong.

    • Carbonear Canadiens
      November 14, 2012 - 05:49

      Yes, I think they should wait and setup shop in Carbonear. There will be prime restaurant real estate opening soon when Oppy's goes under.

  • Jennifer
    November 10, 2012 - 12:06

    too bad their kitchen and wait staff can't keep up with the demand! Both St. john's locations have given me and my friends bad customer service. At one location, we were yelled at. Grand Falls and Gander locations, however, were fantastic. I did notice the big difference: there wasn't a line out the door and wait staff weren't run off their feet.