BrandIndex research on chicken wing dining competitors in Nation's Restaurant News

Krystal's new wings boost customer satisfaction, traffic

Krystal's new Game Time Wings are driving increases in its customer satisfaction scores to levels near those of larger wing competitors, according to data from YouGov BrandIndex.

The 376-unit chain said it also has seen a boost in customer traffic since introducing the wings, which were targeted at its core sports-loving customers.

New York-based BrandIndex, which measures consumer perceptions of hundreds of brands, said Krystal’s “satisfaction” and “buzz” scores have improved markedly from negative levels in August before the rollout of the wings.

Krystal’s satisfaction score — calculated by asking BrandIndex’s sample of 5,000 consumers whether they’re satisfied customers of a certain brand and then subtracting negative responses from positive ones — started at negative 9.8 on Aug. 2 and ended at 36 on Oct. 4.

Buffalo Wild Wings finished the period with a satisfaction score of 46.3, higher than Krystal’s but still down from its scores in the 60s and 70s through August, when the chain aggressively courted football fans by hosting fantasy football draft parties and rolling out its NFL “Pick ’Em Challenge.” Meanwhile, Hooters began August with a 23.6 satisfaction score, but tapered off to end the period at 12.8.

“Satisfaction scores tend to be a lagged metric following a promotional period, and Krystal’s scores would be good news for any brand,” said Ted Marzilli, senior vice president for BrandIndex. “Satisfied customers tend to be repeat customers and tend to spread the word. Krystal should feel good about those numbers, especially with Buffalo Wild Wings’ and Hooters’ scores declining, which tells you that it’s not an industry effect.”

Brad Wahl, Krystal’s vice president of marketing, said the gains in traffic that Krystal has seen since rolling out Game Time Wings in late August are exceeding the company's expectations.

He added that gains in BrandIndex’s data and Krystal’s own internal measures of guest satisfaction reflect the efforts the chain took during the research and development process to ensure consistent preparation of the wings. The brand’s goal wasn’t necessarily to bring in new customers but to spur incremental visits from its loyal core customers, he said.

“The strategy is still about giving our loyalists another reason to choose the brand, to get the extra visit,” Wahl said. “We’re definitely seeing the gain in transactions we wanted, and our internal tracking shows that the frequency of our core customer has improved.”

Krystal will continue its promotional tour of the Crave Cruiser, a branded truck outfitted for sampling Game Time Wings at college football games and NASCAR races. The tour wraps up Halloween weekend at the Amp Energy 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. But Krystal will continue to promote the wings through football season and into basketball season, Wahl said.

“The other strategy with the rollout was, rather than do an LTO and walk away for a while to talk about something else, we’re going to stay on wings for a full six months,” he said. “So the sampling tour will conclude, but it won’t stop promotional support for Game Time Wings. We plan to promote them all the way through March Madness.”

Chattanooga, Tenn.-based Krystal's restaurants are located in the South and Southeast.