Wingers

Amran Sunner, Founder of Wingers: Q&A

Amran Sunner is one of the founders of Wingers – the Chicken Wing Company. We spoke to Amran to find out more about how the business came about and this exciting franchise opportunity.

Founder of Wingers

What is the history and inspiration behind Wingers?

Wingers is all about fresh buttermilk fried chicken. It’s the Nation’s favourite – chicken and chips – but done really well. My dad first came up with the idea while he ran several sandwich shops, but it was shelved while he grew that business. Suddenly Covid hit and the sandwich business had to close. As a family we had zero income coming in. It was a tough time. 

I’d just completed my university course in finance and accounting, with final lectures completed on Zoom, from home, so we put our heads together. Food deliveries were still allowed during lockdown so we thought: 

“We’ve got a fully fitted out kitchen, let’s make a small
investment in a frier and see if the chicken shop idea would fly.”  

It did! The first day we only made £250, but it quickly took off from there. When restrictions allowed people to collect from takeaways, orders suddenly flocked in. We were working out of an industrial estate with a huge car park so whole families would arrive. Our runners would deliver to people’s cars, and in the summer when restrictions allowed, people brought wine and would literally have a picnic in the car park!

One customer – Bal – had and still does, have a great love for our chicken wings. He used to place a big order every week. Our whole team knew him by name and one day he left a note on a ticket just saying: “call me about a franchise.”  
At the time, expansion was not in our plan, so we said no, however, six months later he asked again, and we were ready. The rest is history! 

It turned out that Bal is highly experienced in the food industry, so it was a great honour that he loved our food so much he wanted to become a franchise and help us develop the brand. Bal helped us raise the capital to set up the pilot Lichfield restaurant in 2020. He now has two of his own Wingers franchised stores about to open.

How has the operation grown?

Initially, I ran the Lichfield restaurant with my brother Dylan, my mum Jas and the help of two managers who used to work in the previous family business. Now, although I’m still responsible for Lichfield, I also work on the expansion of the franchise with Dylan and my dad, Bill.

Wolverhampton was our second store to open in October 2022, followed by Aldridge, Hednesford and Worcester. Leamington Spa, Shrewsbury, Nottingham and Birmingham International Train Station are set to open very soon. We now have six franchisees.

What makes Wingers different?

We have a simple menu, using great quality ingredients. We focus on high quality but try to be gentle on prices, which keeps customers coming back for more.

Operationally, simplicity of processes is also key. It’s easy to train anyone on all the workstations very quickly. Within the kitchen we just use two cuts of meat – wings and tenders, along with fries plus our sauces and garnishes.

Our software means it’s a one-stop-shop for front and back of house management, making order control and reporting on sales easy for franchisees. The system also integrates with aggregators like Uber Eats so everything is kept on one tablet.

What’s the secret to your success?

Personally, I’m focused on the big picture but also getting the details right. I used to manage one of my dad’s sandwich shops during the school holidays when I was just 16. It taught me about customer service, I like to see smiles on customers’ faces and to keep getting great reviews. I’m always looking at where we can improve to ensure repeat custom, and as a brand, this is where we are strong. I have a passion for food, the menu I’ve created means a lot to me.

What are your plans for Wingers?

The pandemic showed me that you never know what’s around the corner, however, our aim is to grow the business. In an ideal world we would love to have 50 Wingers restaurants up and running within five years. This means we are now actively recruiting for new franchisees to join our operation. In return we offer full turn-key opening of stores, this includes help with site selection, design, fit out, training, marketing and more. It’s a family business and if franchisees join Wingers we are as invested in their success as they are.

Who is suitable to become a Wingers franchisee?

Our operation is simple so anyone can do it. However, we are looking for people who love our food. They need to be hands on managers ready to learn every aspect of the business and be willing to invest the time to do so. We work as a big family, so we bounce ideas of each other and are open to listening about how to improve the brand collectively. We are looking for people who want to be actively involved rather than hands off investors. Multi-unit opportunities are available for ambitious franchisees too.

Piloting the Wingers Concept

Amran Sunner is one of the founders of Wingers – the Chicken Wing Company. Amran also manages the Lichfield restaurant with his brother Dylan.

Amran explains: “We set up Wingers during the Pandemic. The Lichfield restaurant was our pilot and we still run this today with the help of our store managers Denise and Eleanor who have been with us since day one.”

“At 23, people say I am young to run and grow a franchised business, but I started early! Dad used to run around eight sandwich shops, so we are all used to this sort of operation. I was solely in charge of one of my dad’s sandwich shops during the school holidays when I was just 16!”

“As the whole Wingers business has developed, it has become a family effort.  My mum, Jes, is in charge of food safety, hygiene and audits the stores. She also taught me how to cook!  

My brother Dylan oversees Lichfield with me, and we work together with Dad to grow the whole franchise operation. My late grandad used to help out too. We are also supported by Anthony Round, a hugely experienced QSR franchise professional of more than 25 years, plus other experienced marketing and operations professionals who make up our team.”

Wingers in Lichfield

“To set up our first restaurant in Lichfield, we were lucky enough to attract support from one of our customers. We had been operating a delivery and take away business and one customer – Bal – had and still does, have a great love for our chicken wings. He used to place a big order every week. Our whole team knew him by name and one day he left a note on a ticket just saying: “call me about a franchise.”  

At the time, expansion was not in our plan, so we said no. However, six months later he asked again, and we were ready.  It turned out that Bal is highly experienced in the food industry, so it was a great honour that he loved our food so much he wanted to become a franchisee and help us develop the brand.”

“Bal helped us raise the capital to set up the pilot Lichfield restaurant in 2020. He became a partner in the restaurant and now has two of his own Wingers franchised stores about to open.

“It was just a few months from that initial conversation with Bal to opening the first Lichfield Wingers restaurant. Dylan chose the location: he used to pass it every day on the way to school!”

“It was incredibly hard work at first. Dylan – who had decided university wasn’t for him – mum and I worked flat out for about a month, but orders flew in. After that we were able to take on and train staff, and start to push Wingers on Uber Eats. Now we have 12 team members in Lichfield, including our store managers who have taken charge of day to day operations. We are in contact every day.”

“I now use Lichfield as a test store for everything. It’s laid out how all our franchised stores should be, so we use it for training and even as my menu development kitchen!”

“Since the Lichfield opening took off, we now have six franchisees, with Wingers successfully trading in Wolverhampton, Aldridge, Hednesford and Worcester.  Leamington Spa, Shrewsbury, Nottingham and Birmingham International Train Station are set to open very soon.” 

“We are now looking for new franchisees to join us in expanding our proven franchise concept. We offer full turn-key opening of stores, this includes help with site selection, design, fit out, training, marketing and more. We know the model works because we set up in the toughest times during the pandemic. Because it’s a family business, we are as invested in our franchisees’ success as they are.”

Wingers Wows in Worcester

Wingers in Worcester

During Lockdown, Raj Sandhar would enjoy a Wingers chicken delivery ordered through Uber Eats. Raj explains: “The 20 wing sharer boxes are still our favourite! Wow!  They are great to share with friends and family, and go well with a beer or two. The kids love them too!”

“As a food franchisee with Subway for seven years, I instantly recognised the appeal of great fast food done really well and enquired through the website about a Wingers franchise. Myself and my cousin Major, arranged a meeting with Bill Sunner, one of the founders of Wingers. Within about ten weeks of that first conversation we’d opened our Wingers franchised restaurant in Warndon, Worcester.”

“One of the most challenging aspects of any fast-food franchise is getting the location right. Bill had found the site and knew it was fairly close to my franchised Subway store so thought it would work well for us. It’s situated in a parade of food shops and near a Tesco Express so was guaranteed to gain a high footfall. We checked out the location and looked at the rent and rates to calculate anticipated profit and the numbers added up.”

“We used trusted builders who Wingers had used before to fit out the store. Our training took place over four days in the Lichfield restaurant. All the processes are easy to learn, Major and myself had mastered them in no-time.”

“Once the build was completed, we then spent a few days training our own staff before opening in March 2023. The chicken we cooked up while training the team was given to passers by and this certainly went down well!”

“Once officially open, our succulent, fresh buttermilk fried chicken literally flew off the shelves! We also sell sides of fries and milkshakes which is great to attract customers too. In our first month we exceeded all expectations!”

“Major, who is only 21, now manages the Worcester store on a day-to-day basis with the help of our team of eight. I’m there two-three days per week so I still have plenty of time to manage my other franchise too.”

“Customers love our chicken because the flavour and quality are top-notch. Business is busy and customers can order a takeaway or delivery. It’s also surprising how many eat in. We get lots of repeat customers and feedback is really good. It’s safe to say, our Wingers franchise has really taken off!”

Wingers Hednesford Franchisees Set for Further Expansion

Tajinder Choongh or TJ to his friends, is the franchisee for Wingers in Hednesford, Staffordshire. As an experienced fast food franchisee who’s been in the catering industry since 2016, running Subway, Tahi Express and Project D Doughnuts outlets, TJ knew a great franchise opportunity when he saw one!

TJ’s dad and uncle also ran 25 franchised Subway stores as business partners for some years, so when they discovered Wingers, they collaborated their partnership with TJ and his business partner Rav, to make a four-way investment in a franchised restaurant.

TJ explains: “We arranged a meeting with Amran, Dylan and Bill Sunner the founders of Wingers. It turned out they lived very close to us, and we all got on really well.  Amran and Dylan are very down-to-earth, really caring about the brand and this shows in everything they do. My dad and Bill have a mutual respect for each other, and we all liked the fact we would be working directly with the people who created this exciting, fresh concept. A lot of food franchises are massive corporates and there is no room to input ideas. With Wingers, we are all working together, all invested in the growth and success of the brand. It’s like one big family!”

Wingers in Hednesford, Staffordshire

“With only BBQ and Spicy sauces on the menu, early on, we recognised the need to include a white sauce to accompany our succulent, fresh fried buttermilk fried chicken too. We helped with testing and Amran came up with garlic and parmesan – which now literally flies out of the door! It’s great to be able to use our experience to help drive the overall success of the Wingers brand, not just our own restaurant.”

TJ’s Hednesford restaurant opened two weeks before Christmas in December 2022. He says: “From the moment we opened, it was manic! We have a great location in a parade of shops shared with an Indian takeaway and pizza outlet. A new Coop is being built and a new housing estate is to be constructed nearby, so it’s only set to become busier! For the local primary school, we offer a deal on milkshakes for the kids too so whole families can now enjoy Wingers.”

“To develop the store fit-out we looked at using different builders but eventually chose one who was recommended by Bill and who is a customer! His work has proven to be of excellent quality and he’s very reliable. He’s now built the Worcester and Aldridge stores and will complete the build at our new site at Birmingham International Train Station too.”

“Training was provided by Amran and Dylan in Lichfield. This is flexible depending on the experience of the franchisee. Rav and I found it was very easy to pick up the menu, which has been created cleverly so it can easily be taught. We sent our manager for training too and then we trained our own staff.”

“The Wingers’ team’s passion and commitment to growing the brand is impressive. Even our cousin has now invested in the Worcester franchise, and we look forward to opening in Birmingham International Train Station for our second site soon too.”

“We are excited about the opportunity that Wingers offers moving forwards and to be involved so early in the brand’s development. We are currently looking for the next great location and, all being well, we will aim to open between five and ten Wingers in the future.”

Growing the Wingers Franchise

Dylan Sunner is one of the founders of Wingers – the Chicken Wing Company franchise. We spoke to Dylan to find out more about his involvement in the business and plans for growth.

Dylan Sunner Co-founder of Wingers

What is your background and how did Wingers start?

I’ve been involved in the business since day one. It was a strange situation during COVID. I was just 16 and the schools were all closed. I didn’t even get to take my GCSEs! However, during the restrictions, my family got together to see how we could make an idea my dad had, some seven years before, finally fly!  

Wingers started in a dark kitchen in Aldridge. With no shop front this made marketing more challenging but we used Uber Eats and I used social media influencers to get the word out and customers would place online orders for collection. 

What was the point you realised Wingers would take off?

One Friday night there were 50 cars parked outside the dark kitchen unit, my brother Amran, another staff member and I were rushed off our feet. My family had worked in the sandwich shop trade for many years but they had never seen the numbers of orders we took that night, all in the space of just four hours!

With a dark kitchen there is no high street presence so the food has to do the talking. It did. Customers loved our fresh fried, buttermilk chicken and kept coming back for more. 

How did you move from the dark kitchen to the first restaurant?

I went to school in Lichfield and knew there were no great quality fast food outlets in the area. When I saw the old Frankie and Benny’s unit was available, I knew it was the perfect location. We did the deal and opened our first Wingers restaurant, offering take outs and deliveries in Lichfield in September 2022.

We’ve only recently closed the original dark kitchen, when our new high street Aldridge restaurant opened close by, as it was so successful.

What’s are your responsibilities at Wingers?

I’m in charge of the numbers. This means ensuring franchisees are up to date with costs and they are working to the correct margins to ensure a good profit. It also means I help them reach each of their targets and spot if anything within their cost base needs adjusting early. I’m pleased to report all of our franchisees are smashing their targets!

In the early days I looked after the social media, but now we have a specialist firm to take care of this important aspect of marketing for the brand and for our franchisees.

I’m also involved in identifying and selecting new Wingers sites for franchisees. We are looking for high profile units, ideally in shopping centres or on the high street. These sites can be hard to source but I’ve just found a great unit in Nottingham and a franchisee has already signed up.

In addition, I’m also involved in training new franchisees and their staff too. Franchisees usually spend four weeks training at our Lichfield restaurant. When a new Wingers opens up, I’m hands on in the new unit for the first couple of weeks to ensure everyone is up to speed.

What are your future plans for Wingers?

It’s been crazy busy! In three years we’ve gone from zero to five restaurants plus several others due to open very soon. It’s incredibly exciting to see the rewards for our effort. My parents have a strong work ethic and now we all work together as a family and it’s a great experience. Our aim for the future is to keep growing. With the official launch as a franchise, we believe 50 restaurants over the next five years is realistic. The product is popular, the concept simple for franchisees to learn, so there is nothing stopping us.

Who can become a Wingers franchisee?

We can train any business minded individual to run a Wingers franchised restaurant but people with an interest in great food is a plus. All our processes have been developed to make life easy for our franchisees and their teams. We help with site sourcing, shop fit-out and marketing so anyone with the right enthusiasm to succeed could run one of our restaurants. We work as a family and value good relationships with our franchisees so we are looking for ambitious people who want to grow a successful business and work with us as a team to develop the Wingers brand, where we all profit from success.
Multi-unit opportunities are available for ambitious franchisees too.

How home-grown brand is succeeding in the fresh fried chicken market

My background is in sandwich shops.  We’d started out as a premium brand but found our £1 sandwiches and baguets flew off the shelves best and quickly expanded to ten sites, some of which were franchised and some wholly owned. Ultimately, price rises meant it was difficult to sustain the £1 model, so from our production facility we moved into wholesale, supplying schools, colleges and football clubs.

However, back in 2012, I read an article that confirmed 1.2 million chicken wings were sold over one weekend during the Superbowl. It was a lightbulb moment. I did some cost calculations and still liked the idea but the timing wasn’t quite right as we were so busy with the sandwich business.

Bill Sunner, Co-founder of Wingers

Fast forward to 2020 and the pandemic suddenly changed everything. The sandwich business had to close, but we had a facility and a visionary idea ready to hatch. 

Today, Wingers has become a hugely popular fresh buttermilk fried quality chicken brand across the Midlands, and we have now franchised the opportunity. We are unique in the market because we are literally a home-grown, family run business. For the big US brands, franchisees can end up just being a number on a spreadsheet. However, at Wingers, we work with our franchisees in partnership and we are committed to helping them succeed.  We are invested in their business doing well, so working together, we can grow the brand.

As we have expanded over the past few years, our buying power has become stronger. This means the proposition for franchisees has become even better. We are always looking to grow sales and improve EBITDA for our franchisees. For example: we have recently taken the process of marinading our fresh chicken in-house. This means we can ensure a greater level of consistency of quality. Having more control over the main ingredient in our supply chain also means higher margins for franchisees.

We have put our 5000 square foot unit in Aldridge, which was formerly our dark kitchen, to good use. My wife, Jas, who is highly experienced in catering and a level 4 food hygiene qualified, has led on design and good practice. With a new chiller room, chiller zone to ensure full temperature control, the unit is now a state of the art marination station. Our fresh marinated chicken is now packed and delivered in our own converted and branded vehicles. Immediately, our franchisees have seen the benefits of reduced supply costs.

The unit is large and so is also our head office and training centre for franchisees. It’s very close to the Aldridge high street restaurant so we can show new franchisees the whole sales process and customer journey easily. Training takes place over four weeks, working around franchisees’ own schedules. It is tailored towards their individual needs and experience and as well as food preparation and team management, can include accounting and the use of Xero accounting package and booking sales as necessary. We are committed to providing our franchisees as much support as they need to get their businesses up and running successfully in addition to ongoing support too.

We have put in place a great team which includes Anthony Round as franchise development who with more than two decades of experience is one of the best operators in the industry. My sons Amran and Dylan are also integral to the business, bringing their energy, experience and vision to hone the proposition and keep us firmly on target for growth.

Site sourcing is incredibly important and we are looking for high footfall units which can be in demand. Therefore, we also work with two professional property agents who know the sector inside and out and can source the best sites for our franchisees. Our trusted trade team manage the restaurant fit out to our specifications on behalf of franchisees, and we also have a national PR and marketing support to launch restaurants successfully too.

We work with aggregators like Just Eat and Uber Eats which help with marketing, however our model also relies on customers coming into restaurants to eat and pick up a takeaway. Direct sales are  more profitable for our franchisees, so it is essential our units look bright and welcoming and our strong design and branding ensures they come back for more.

There is competition in the market from other chicken brands, but we stand out for the high quality of our succulent, fresh buttermilk fried chicken and will never compromise on this.  Our processes, systems and menu are all designed to be as simple as possible to ensure orders are out of the door quickly which maintains quality. Each time a customer orders a tender, we want it to be fantastic.

Over the past few years, as a family we have worked hard to develop and establish the Wingers brand. We currently have five restaurants open and trading successfully, with plans to double this by the end of 2023. Next year, we will add a further ten sites and invite new franchisees to join us to leverage the excitement around our amazing product and create their own profitable, franchised Wingers restaurant. For suitable candidates with business experience, great communication and management skills and an interest in quality fast food, help with every aspect of the franchise is provided.  

Wingers Franchise Sparks Interest

Jack Davis has been an electrician for seven years, working in his family business set up by his dad Kem 40 years ago. He’s completed the electrical installation for five Wingers – the Chicken Wing company – high street restaurants, plus a dark kitchen in Birmingham. One day, it sparked a new idea!

Jack confirms: “As well as completing electrical work for Wingers, I was a regular customer in the Lichfield restaurant. I love the tasty fresh fried buttermilk chicken, which is at a great price point – perfect if you don’t fancy cooking! The team are friendly and welcoming and the shops bright and colourful with memorable, strong branding. I had an idea which just wouldn’t go away! I got chatting to Bill Sunner one of the founders of Wingers and asked him if you needed any kind of experience to run a franchised Wingers outlet. The answer was: “you are business minded, we like the quality of your work so, if you are keen we can train you!””

Wingers Kem Davis (L) and Jack Davis (R)

“When Bill phoned me some weeks later to say he’d found the perfect site on Aldridge high street, suddenly the idea of becoming a Wingers franchisee took off! Training took place in the Lichfield store over a few weeks. I learned all the behind the scenes processes from ordering to food hygiene, doing the books, to stock control. It was fairly straight forward, even for someone with no food industry experience.”

“I was proud to work on the electrics as part of the Aldridge store fit out. It was exciting to think this was my new venture! The Aldridge restaurant opened in July 2023 and it was busy from day one. Aldridge high street is a popular food destination with a fish & chips shop and café. Suddenly Wingers was also on the menu! Wingers has a close relationship with Uber Eats which helps with online marketing plus we launched with some special offers and customers soon flocked in.”

“I’ve chosen to go into the franchise in partnership with my dad and uncle so we can build something together for the future. My dad and Bill get on really well and I work well with Dylan and Amran, Bill’s sons who are also founders of Wingers and heavily involved with the business. There is a real family feel to the operation, yet the Wingers team members are all highly professional and incredibly experienced. The Wingers franchise represents an impressive opportunity and we are really excited to be involved at such an early stage.”

“I plan to continue being an electrician, so once Aldridge is fully established, I will appoint a trusted manager to run the restaurant along with our team. I will then be able to oversee the franchised operation by just popping in on a regular basis and being in close contact with staff. A number of the team came from the Wingers dark kitchen in Aldridge – which has closed now the store has opened. They really know their jobs. Many existing online customers from the dark kitchen now order from the high street store too, so this got sales off to a flying start.”

“Who knows what the future will hold? Wingers is expanding rapidly and we love the simple, fresh concept which has met a gap in the market for quality, tasty fast food. There are certainly plenty of opportunities for expansion in the future, so watch this space!”

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