Why people have gone bonkers for WingStop’s buffalo wings during COVID-19 pandemic

The never frozen wings are darn good and they could now be delivered relatively quickly to a quarantined nation thanks to third-party delivery services.

And therein lays the secret — yet simple — sauce to the relatively insane sales trends being seen right now at WingStop (WING). The fast-growing wing chain — which operates more than 1,200 locations in the U.S. (1,400 globally) — saw domestic same-store sales surge 33.4% in April. Digital orders now comprise an impressive 65% of WingStop’s business with dine-in service closed for now amid state quarantine guidelines.

Longtime WingStop CEO Charlie Morrison won’t say full stop the business is recession proof. But the trends in the business (which is nothing too new for the company) suggest it’s as close to recession proof in in the fast-food business as it could get. Morrison credits the food and new access to the brand via delivery for the measurable pickup in business last month.

DETROIT, MI – APRIL 29: Wingstop Charities and Jalen Rose celebrate the academic achievements of Jalen Rose Leadership Academy students in Detroit who achieved a GPA of 3.0 or higher last semester on April 29, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images for Wingstop)

“I don’t know that any business model is recession proof. But WingStop has demonstrated we’ve been able to grow through some of these difficult situations. This year certainly was beyond our expectations, but it’s a great testament to the fact that this brand is really in a category by itself and that our customers really crave that comfort feel of those wings, fries and sides and all the flavors that go with it,” Morrison said on Yahoo Finance’s The First Trade.

WingStop shares rose slightly in Thursday trading on Morrison’s comments. The stock has surged 43% this year, dusting the performance of larger fast-food rivals such as McDonald’s (-8.2%), Restaurant Brands International (-20%) and Wendy’s (-9%).

For the first quarter, WingStop’s domestic same-store sales rose 9.9%. Earnings improved to 27 cents a share from 22 cents last year.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-anchor of The First Trade at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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