Wing It On

It’s Foodie Friday which means that tomorrow and Sunday are football days. Yes, I’m aware that games are played on damn near every night now, but traditionalist that I am, Saturday is for college and Sunday is for the NFL.

Of course, any serious fan has to watch with a beverage and some sort of snack food. I try to avoid snacks that come premade and prefer to make them myself. Dips are big (I’ve got a bacon cheese dip that’s become the go-to) as are poppers (cheese stuffed jalapenos wrapped in bacon – are you starting to see a pattern?). It’s not a Michigan game without weenies (pigs in a blanket or whatever you call them) but the real snacking centerpiece is a fresh pile of chicken wings.

I sometimes wonder if chickens had wings before the 1960s. Other than using them in stock, I think cooks mostly discarded them. In the mid-1960s, a bar in Buffalo began selling the first of what we now consider to be the prototypical wing – unbreaded, fried, and dosed in hot sauce, maybe with butter, maybe not. Since then, entire restaurant chains have been founded on chicken wings and it’s hard to find a bar that doesn’t serve them.

My local favorite wing place offers many different types. Their garlic-Parmesan wings are killer. They are but one of a dozen types they serve, ranging from mild to fiery, doused in a sauce to dry-rubbed, and Korean-flavored, teriyaki, and other global flavors. Which of course got me thinking.

The underlying wing is the same (I don’t classify “boneless” wings, which are really strips of breast meat, as wings). Even the preparation is pretty ubiquitous. They must be very dry (use baking soda in the seasoning and air dry them for a bit before cooking). They can be fried in hot oil or baked in a hot oven with either regular heat or convection. Still, the product is basically the same until the final sauce is added.

That should be a reminder to each of us in business. Success in my mind is less dependent on coming up with new, wonderful products than it is on our ability to provide a sauce that’s better than anyone else can provide. Some of it involves customer service but it’s also your unique flavor. If everyone is doing butter and hot sauce, there’s no reason why you can’t as well since your customers probably expect that. But which hot sauce? Sure, you could be lazy and buy the pre-made “wing” sauce from your supplier, but since others are doing that too you’ve now made your wings a commodity – anyone can serve the same flavor.

We try to make the garlic-Parmesan wings here at home. The wings are every bit as crispy as the bar’s but we don’t quite get their flavor. I guess that’s why we keep going back. What are you doing to have people come back for your unique flavor?

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