Wings Franchise To Open In Framingham

Monday, April 13, 2009

When three UMass grads who work at the MetroWest Daily News heard that a Wings Over franchise was coming to Framingham, their reaction was nearly identical. Wide smiles formed and one question was asked: When does it open? The answer is... pause to build tension... by the end of this month if contractual issues get resolved.

The trio had consumed a chicken wing or two dozen at the Hangar Pub & Grill in Amherst where the business originated in 1999. All three raved about the boneless wings with honey barbecue sauce. "They're addictive," said one staffer. "You can't go wrong with fried chicken and lots of sauce." Added another, "It's a food group at UMass. Walk into any dorm on a Friday night and you will smell their wings." Said a third, "Hell, I've ordered them when I wasn't even hungry because they're so good." The new Wings Over Framingham is setting up shop in the former confines of R.H. Long Motor Sales Co. at 624 Waverley St. (Rte. 135) across from Fountain Street. The dealership moved to Southborough.

The proprietors of Wings Over Framingham, Matthew Kamins and Laurian Banciulescu, currently own Wings Over Worcester, which they started 2 1/2 years ago. The former high-tech professionals decided to become wings professionals after tasting the product at the franchise in Hartford when they resided in Connecticut.

"We used to live down the street from one there and we loved it," said Kamins, 37. "We were always eating there. We loved the concept. We talked to the head of franchising and were able to open a franchise. And we're very happy we did." The idea of being their own bosses also appealed to them.

The two, who now live in Worcester, chose Framingham for their sophomore effort based on several factors. "The area has great traffic and the right demographics," said Banciulescu, 31. "It has strong neighborhoods, apartment complexes, a hospital nearby and students." The hospital is the MetroWest Medical Center while the student base includes nearby Joseph P. Keefe Vocational Technical High School as well as Framingham High School, Marian High School and Framingham State College. Mass Bay Community College has a campus in Framingham also.

"We didn't necessarily want to be on Rte. 9," said Kamins. "We wanted to be really in Framingham and be a part of Framingham and this fit the bill." Wings Over Worcester has provided jobs for "economically challenged individuals," contributed to charities and hosted a yearly wing-eating contest. The owners plan to do the same in Framingham.

They had hoped to open the new franchise in December, "but we had a few delays," said Banciulescu. Added Kamins, "The process takes longer than you think." As its name implies, Wings Over Framingham will specialize in wings - with and without bones. The boneless variety come hand-battered - "not that processed frozen junk," according to the menu. These are sold by weight. Meal names reflect the eatery's Hangar roots. The DC-3, which provides more than a half pound of boneless wings, costs $6.50. The Zeppelin, weighing in at more than 6 pounds, costs $60.

Wings, which are described as "the largest, meatiest, tastiest wings available," come lightly breaded unless requested otherwise. The Paper Airline contains seven of them for $5.50. The Galaxy provides 120 for $70.

Sauces number 22, including the aforementioned honey barbecue. It's the most popular sauce by a 2-1 margin at Wings Over Worcester, according to the owners. Other sauces include spicy teriyaki, Cajun teriyaki, Cajun blackened, honey mustard, honey lime, garlic parmesan, Jamaican jerk, honey lime, West Texas mesquite and sweet onion barbecue.

The hot sauce, meanwhile, has five levels of heat, ranging from "wimpy" to "after-burner." "It's not so hot that you can't taste the chicken," said Banciulescu. "You could easily find wings that are hotter, but that's not our main concern. We want it to be hot but flavorful. Sometimes if it's too hot, you can't taste the product." The eatery also serves wraps, ribs, sandwiches, burgers, salads and sides. The latter includes french fries, onion rings, macaroni salad and waffle fries. The combos - wings, soda and a side - can also be ordered. There's no liquor license.

For its wings and ribs, Wings over Worcester received "Best" awards from a Worcester Magazine readers' poll last year.

The building for the new Framingham location consists of 2,000 square feet with most of that space devoted to the kitchen. The restaurant, which does mostly takeout business, will seat 12 and employ 20. The eatery also delivers.

The business has succeeded for a fairly basic reason, according to Kamins. "It's a good product that people like," he said. Added Banciulescu, "Everybody knows wings and every pizza place does wings, but we take it to the next level. It's all we do. We specialize in it. And we're a cut above the rest." How so? "Honestly, it's the taste," Banciulescu continued. "We use fresh products. We did look at other franchises, but the issue with a lot of them was they buy their chicken frozen and then thaw it out. That isn't horrible, but it's a different taste. Our chicken is always fresh and cooked to order. Nothing's frozen." Company literature points out that "Wings Over is the only franchise concept in its niche whose menu items are all cooked to order." From its beginnings in Amherst, where student-customers helped fuel its popularity, the firm, now based in Agawam, has sprouted its wings, so to speak, and today includes five company-operated and 20 franchised locations in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Vermont, Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina and the District of Columbia. It expects to have approximately 60 locations by the end of 2010, averaging about one store opening each month. Owners are Mark D. Simonds, president; Patrick Daly, CEO; and Harold Tramazzo, CFO. Daly and Tramazzo are UMass grads.

For the record, the idea for buffalo chicken wings was conceived at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1964. Hence the delicacy's name. Sorry, no bison are used in the product's manufacturing. According to published reports, 18 billion chicken wing segments were sold in American restaurants in 2004 - about 60 wing pieces for every person in the United States.

Wings Over launched its franchising program in January 2002. The estimated initial investment for a franchise ranges from $156,200 to $338,000, including a $20,000 franchise fee. The initial development fee for a developer is a minimum of $50,000, depending on the size of the development area. The royalty fee is four percent of gross sales paid monthly. Wings Over reserves the right to collect an additional one percent contribution to an advertising fund if it is established.

Wings Over offers both stand-alone and inline store models, but inline units are most common and average about 1,700 square feet. Typical locations include high-exposure, high-traffic strip centers in densely populated areas. With a focus on delivery and takeout, most locations have only a small seating area with no table service. Initial staffing requires 20 to 25 employees, 80 percent of whom work part time.

"Wings Over offers one of the most comprehensive training programs in franchising with combination classroom and hands-on instruction provided during a 30-day program at the Wings Over corporate-operated store and training center in Springfield," according to company literature. "More than 80 percent of the instruction is done in a hands-on environment. Afterward, 10 days of onsite training and assistance - including training of hourly employees - is provided at the franchisee's location. An additional training center will be operated from the company-owned store in Columbus, Ohio." So much for just plugging in a Fryolater.

As to whether Kamins and Banciulescu plan to open other Wings Over eateries, Kamins said, "That's to be determined." Concluded Banciulescu, "Right now we're excited to open in Framingham. We hope people will give us a shot." Right now they have three UMass grads who definitely will.

Wings over Framingham will be open from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily. The Web site is www.wingsover.com.

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