Drew Gooden: A Man About Some Chicken Wings

[flash http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAU6OQNIB1A]

You know that feeling you get when you pick up a 20-piece box of buffalo wings and drive home, and you’re so excited to eat them that you seriously contemplate taking off your shirt while in traffic, but decide against it because it’s a pretty terrible idea? And then you finally get to your door and you start fumbling with the keys. But this isn’t really a result of excitement; you’re just a really clumsy person who is also really awful at holding small objects. However, after a few violent shakes, the door is open and all is well and bright. You crash onto the couch, tune into the Sunday football games, and do your weekly ritual where you get wing sauce all over your fingers and wipe them under your eyes like some fragrant, off-colored eye black. Except you got buffalo sauce this week, you fool, not honey roasted BBQ, so the vinegary fumes and floating particles of capsaicin are just decimating your eyes. But not even that will stop the good vibes. And you continue to gnaw at the bits of cartilage left on the bones in absolute bliss, keeping track of the scores by wiping your saucy fingers on the walls in the form of appropriate alphanumeric symbols.

Drew Gooden knows that feeling. He knows you can’t do that at a Hooters, and he knows you can’t do it at a Buffalo Wild Wings. And that’s why he will soon become the proud owner of four Wingstops in the Orlando area (though he’d probably appreciate it if you didn’t do any of your Sunday rituals at any of his locations):

Gooden — who played last season with the Milwaukee Bucks and had two seasons with Orlando in the early 2000s — along with operating partner George Taylor III last month inked a deal with Texas restaurant chain Wingstop Inc.    to open four new restaurants in the Orlando area. The pair, as Zerocon Food Systems LLC, plan to open the eatery in areas such as Altamonte Springs, Dr. Phillips, Lake Mary, the University of Central Florida main campus area in east Orlando and Winter Park, just to name a few possible locations.

via Drew Gooden moves from pro basketball to wings franchise | Orlando Business Journal

But that’s the theoretical beauty of Wingstop. Where its main competition strive for a loud, social environment, Wingstop functions primarily as a takeout type of restaurant, because it (I assume) acknowledges how primitive the act of eating wings can be. And really, it’s not something to be done in the company of those who don’t know you. Because it’s basically a certainty that you aren’t making a good first impression eating chicken wings.

Shockingly enough, however, Wingstop was not Gooden’s first choice:

“I did lot of research on different franchises,” he said, adding that he wanted to land a Five Guys deal, but that the only franchises available were outside of the United States. “Wingstop is where Five Guys was four years ago, and now it’s got 15-20 locations throughout Orlando.”

Owning several Five Guys Burgers & Fries would have been a pretty wise decision if it were available. Gooden would then be following the precedent that Caron Butler established by owning six Burger Kings. Five Guys has seen a surge in popularity, especially in areas that aren’t blessed with In-N-Out Burger locations nearby (ie. most of the country). What sets Five Guys apart from its contemporaries is the multitude of toppings available to the eater. Though, the customization factor would be much more alluring if certain toppings (grilled onions, sauteed mushrooms) were cooked properly, and if the overall quality of ingredients was better. Oh, and about the prices… Sorry. Is my In-N-Out bias showing?

In any case, Gooden is making a wise investment. With games now certainly being cut, the reality of losing  money should sink in quite soon. With Gooden’s fat contract signing last season, he should have plenty of funds for this venture. NBA players with sufficient capital should take notice. Drew Gooden is a good example of how to grow business outside of your main one. It doesn’t hurt that Gooden has found himself in a profitable market. We’re crazy for chicken, and will continue to be for the rest of time. After all, to quote (once again) the ineffable Brooklyn-based rapper Fabolous, “You can’t go cold turkey on fried chicken, you know?

That line does not get old.

Seth Carstens