Capriotti’s and Wing Zone Plan Major Expansion into Canadian Market: Interview

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American fast casual restaurant brands Capriotti’s and Wing Zone are planning a major expansion into the Canadian market. 

Jeff Young, of SCALE FRANCHISE and Chief Development Officer for both brands in Canada, who is leading the franchise development in Canada, said the brands want to focus initially on the Greater Toronto Area, which will be a springboard to the rest of Canada.

“As a seasoned industry leader, I have been keenly watching both brands experience explosive growth in the United States who have been named ‘Top 10 by Fast Casual Movers & Shakers’ and are amongst the restaurant industry’s fastest growing franchise concepts,” he said.

Image: Capriotti’s

“Currently there are approximately 200 Capriotti’s units in operation and approximately 300 Capriotti’s units under development and 57 Wing Zone units in operation and over 100 Wing Zone units under development.  

“Building from the enormous success and momentum in the USA, both Capriotti’s and Wing Zone are ideally poised to become market leaders in the respective sandwich and chicken categories in Canada.”

Capriotti’s was founded in 1976 in Wilmington, Delaware by siblings Lois and Alan Margolet, specializing in the sandwich segment of the market.

Wing Zone was founded more than 30 years ago and acquired by Capriotti’s in 2020. Wing Zone was founded in 1991 in Gainesville, Florida by Matt Friedman and Adam Scott, who created a variety of chicken wings with award-winning flavours.

Rendering: Wing Zone

“I see huge growth potential in Canada and initially we want to look at a development plan of one per 100,000 – 150,000 population base – as a benchmark, a balanced market penetration,” said Young.

“While we anticipate high demand for the brand, we’re not going to over-saturate the market. We’re not going to compromise the brand by over-developing in the market.

“I believe there’s definitely a market for that premium sandwich category and that’s exactly what Capriotti’s represents. Very high quality, very flavourful, premium ingredients. So that’s where the brand will see its niche in the market.”

Young said the chicken category has exploded during the pandemic.

“It’s comfort food. It travels well. It’s a bit of a different business model than Capriotti’s in that it’s mostly takeout and delivery through the delivery aggregators. It can be 80 to 85 per cent off-premise consumption,” he said. 

“What makes Wing Zone unique is really two things. One is our cooking process. It’s a two-stage cooking process and you finish the wings off in two minutes. So it’s a quick turnaround time. Also we’ve just done a 20-unit multi-unit franchise deal with Wing Zone Labs in Los Angeles that utilizes Miso’s Flippy 2 Robots which are going to be replacing kitchen staff. I think that’s the future of a lot of QSR (quick service restaurant) concepts as obviously labour issues become more of an issue for operators.  Technology is going to be a driving force for Wing Zone and obviously their flavours. They’ve got award-winning flavours, fantastic products. Big, thick, juicy plump chicken wings.

“I strongly believe that the consumer market and franchisees alike will embrace the brand even though there’s lots of representation of chicken in the Canadian marketplace. There’s some distinct points of difference with Wing Zone.”

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Mario was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.

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