The NFL Lockout Won't Hold Back Wingstop

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Federal judge Susan Nelson might have demanded the NFL get onto the field and on with game, but that's not likely to change much except court dates -- except for the NFL draft, whose first round will still be held tonight. But the judge and players aren't the only ones eager to get back to business. Restaurants with a heavy investment in football are also concerned.

Andy Howard, chief marketing officer of Richardson-based Wingstop, initially laughed off the prospect of a long-term freeze on the professional football season. "We're going fishing." Getting serious, he said, "Wings and football go together like socks and shoes. If you're watching football, you're eating chicken wings." For residents of Dallas-Fort Worth, nothing could be truer. Wingstop is the official wings maker of the Dallas Cowboys and the company's national spokesperson is gridiron god Troy Aikman. Wingstop is also the preferred wings of the Houston Texans.

"I'm not going to joke around. The NFL is important to us. It's our gravy to the normal business," said Howard. "But it's not the only thing we've got going for us. Friday and Saturday nights are huge for us," he said, referring to high school and college ball, especially in Texas.

Though not completely reliant on the dollars reaped from professional football, Wingstop's management has contingency plans. Howard wouldn't get into specifics lest a competitor like Buffalo Wild Wings intercept the ideas, but he said ideas are coming fast and multifaceted. "There is a lot of creativity involved. We're not taking the loss. What we will take are approaches we normally wouldn't. We're going to make this positive for everyone and have fun."

With 500 stores in 32 states and in Mexico City there certainly are other avenues. FC Dallas' popularity is growing locally, something the wings chain could take advantage of. Besides, Wings Stop chicken wings are the official wings of the Los Angeles Lakers. Wings and sports go together like briskets and smokers. Howard won't allow a lockout to smoke Wingstop.

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