GREENSBORO, N.C. — Greensboro's Wingz and Thyngz food truck is known for its tender chicken wings spiced up in signature Lemon Pepper and Dry Rubs with sides like Fried Mac & Cheese and Waffle Fries. It's southern comfort food of the highest order, but the past few weeks have been nothing but uncomfortable for owner Michael McNair during a national chicken shortage.
"The places we’ve gone, we’ve definitely seen a shortage with what’s available. They’ve started to put a shortage on how much we can [buy]," McNair said, "We are seeing the price of chicken go up."
Restaurants all over the country, from the Wing Barn in Texas to Chef Rich's Kitchen in Ohio, are reporting the same, the Associated Press said.
"The industry is experiencing some supply challenges," confirmed Sara Matheu, spokeswoman for Chicago-based US Foods, a supplier for restaurants nationwide including J & K. "Meat processors are having a hard time keeping up with increased demand due to a variety of challenges."
Wingz and Thyngz, only three years in operation, is faced with a tough challenge. The price of wings has nearly doubled in the past year, according to McNair. In February, wing prices hit an all-time record at $2.71 a pound. But prices didn't go down after the annual wing bonanza during the Super Bowl. They kept going up.
This potentially puts McNair in a bind. When restaurants charge more than one dollar per wing, customers drop off.
Additionally, restaurants may be tempted to purchase lower quality, lower priced wings to avoid losing profits when the price of chicken climbs. The national shortage has impacted the prices more than it has impacted the quantity of chicken available for restaurants to purchase, McNair said.
Faced with hiking the price of his wings or lowering the quality of chicken, McNair chose a third option. Wingz and Thyngz kept the prices and quality of chicken it serves the same for customers. McNair has instead taken the brunt of the price increase on himself, betting the short-term sacrifice will be repaid with long-term loyalty from customers.
"I would rather you come and help me break even and then come back than for me to try to get rich off you and make a lot of money just to make the same profit." McNair said, "We’re looking for longevity."
The food truck is not McNair's only source of income. He doubles as a minister at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Thomasville, so he said he can afford to 'just break even' right now. That's not to say breaking even is an easy task.
Last year, to make up for the festivals, food truck rodeos and big events canceled due to the coronavirus, Wingz and Thyngz went into overdrive to stay afloat. They served at employee appreciation events at Moses Cone Hospital, Fed Ex and added extra private events to their schedule. McNair chuckles about the time he rolled up the Wingz and Thyngz truck to a wedding.
"They wanted something different," McNair said. "We also did a bunch of community service events, even giving away food at one point. 2020 was different."
The exposure those events provided, however, has started to pay dividends as the state's COVID-19 restrictions have loosened.
"It allowed people to reach out to us now that the world is opening its doors back up and patronize us," McNair said.
Wingz and Thyngz has even received donations from customers eager to see the business succeed through the pandemic. The community support makes McNair believe his bets are paying off and Wingz and Thyngz can become the Triad staple he envisions.
"Most in the food industry are just trying to pay their staff, cover the overhead and, Lord willing, make a lil' profit at the same time." McNair continued, "We were able to get through and I think we’re headed on the right side of this thing now."
To find out the daily location of the Wingz and Thyngz food truck, visit the restaurant's website.