I recently got another taste firsthand of a product shortage that is affecting the restaurant industry, and this one hits close to home. Chicken wings, one of my all-time-favorite foods, are in short supply, and if you can find them they are very expensive.
I did not realize the extent of the problem (I am more apt to make the boneless variety at home than to order bone-in wings out) until a recent eye-opening visit to a Quaker Steak & Lube location. The 42-store chain was recently sold by TravelCenters of America (TA) for $5 million; TA had acquired it out of bankruptcy for $25 million back in 2015.
As I perused the menu, I noticed that there were no prices for bone-in wings, but rather an indication that you needed to ask your server for the market price. As my wife stated, that's what you'll see on menus sometimes for more expensive seafood items such as king crab, lobster or other items considered to be delicacies. I would have never imagined that happening to wings; they formerly were a throw-away food that I discovered in college in the mid '80s at the original Quaker Steak & Lube, pre-franchise, with one location and buckets of 50 wings for $9.99.
Restaurants have gotten creative; beyond boneless wings, Quaker Steak now offers "buffalo legs," which I ordered, and they were tasty. Buffalo Wild Wings is also highlighting boneless wings and even "cauliflower wings" on its online menu. You can still get the traditional bone-in wings, but it will cost you dearly, starting at $9.49 for 6, up to $162.49 for a party tray of 150. I never thought I'd see the day that chicken wings would cost more than a buck apiece. Surely the world has gone mad.
Back In late June, Wingstop (WING) launched its new "Thighstop" marketing concept; that speaks volumes. I won't knock deep-fried thighs covered in buffalo sauce -- they are delicious and they contain a great deal more meat than wings do.
This shortage got me thinking about why wings are scarce, but other parts of the chicken, such as the leg, thigh, and breast, are not. After all, there are four wing pieces (two flats, two drums) on every chicken. Didn't take the genius too long to realize that wings are smaller than other parts of the chicken and consumed in bigger quantities.
Evidently, there are many reasons for the shortages and high prices: the pandemic-related supply chain issues, the weather, demand and probably others.
We will get through this....