A pair of brothers from Howell have jumped on board a rapidly expanding chain of Michigan-based chicken wing restaurants with a new location in Brighton, and a second planned to open in a few weeks.
Ricky and Ronny Hurd opened their first Detroit Wing Co. franchise location at 8593 W. Grand River Ave. in Brighton last week. Their Howell location will open in May at 118 W. Highland Road/M-59 in the Crossroads Town Center shopping center.
The restaurant chain has grown to 18 locations since 2015, including six new locations this year. More than 20 additional restaurants are in the works in Michigan, Ohio and Florida, including eight expected to open before the end of the year.
"I'd like to open more, as well," Ricky Hurd said, in between taking customers' carryout orders.
"I'd like to get this one going and get Howell opened. Then, I think I would like to do 10 in the next few years," he said.
Hurd, 32, said the restaurant chain is expanding so quickly that opening up a few new locations a year "is completely doable."
The sibling are getting into the restaurant industry for the first time; they both previously worked in insurance. Ricky Hurd also has a background in retail and ran several Pets Supplies Plus locations.
"It's the quality of the food," Ronny Hurd, 29, said about why they chose to franchise with Detroit Wing Co. "There's no additives or preservatives. And there is a lot of meat on the bone here."
The menu centers on two things: chicken and sauces. They offer 20 sauce options, including dry rubs and wet sauces.
Ronny Hurd said his favorite sauces are honey barbecue and buffalo customer favorites include garlic parmesan and "firecracker" sauce.
They offer classic and boneless chicken wings, chicken and plant-based tenders, as well as some other meals, sides and 1-pound, homemade New York-style cheesecake with either vanilla bean or Oreo cookies.
"The mac and cheese is really good and popular. It's creamy with panko (bread crumbs)," Ronny Hurd said.
The Brighton location is open seven days a week for carryout only. They also offer delivery, through online ordering service DoorDash, and take large catering orders.
Ricky Hurd said one of the reasons he wanted to become a franchisee with Detroit Wing Co. is there seems to be growing demand for it.
"The model worked (during the pandemic) with carryout. This model didn't start after the pandemic started. They've been doing it since 2015," he said.
Detroit Wing Co. founder Gus Malliaras told Livingston Daily the restaurant's focus on carryout helped his company weather the pandemic.
"There are a few different elements," Malliaras said. "COVID really was, and I hate to say it, great for us. The silver lining, we're carryout focused and always have been. When all the other restaurants were shut down, our volumes went through the roof."
He said both new and existing franchisees are expanding to new locations.
"Half are existing owners opening new stores," he said. "For us that’s the biggest indicator."
He said he did not know how much the company would grow after he opened his first location.
"When we started, we didn’t have these expansion plans. it just kind of took off," he said.
Before founding Detroit Wing Co., Malliaras owned Zack's Hotdogs, a Coney Island restaurant in Warren, which closed in 2015. He said he grew up spending time at his grandparents' restaurant, New Hella’s, in the Greektown area of Detroit. His great-grandparents founded that restaurant in 1901.
"(Zack's Hotdogs) had wings on the menu, but like with any Coney Island there were 100 things on the menu. Everything was made from scratch and made to order. It was hard to do that with 100 items, so I started thinking of ways to simplify it."
He said that is how he decided on chicken wings and sauces.
"We're really all about the sauces," he said.
He said he is gearing up for a new 50,000-square-foot commissary kitchen in Madison Heights where sauce will be made. They currently operate a small 500-square-foot commissary in Eastpointe.
"Before, every location was making sauce at the store level, and that was a lot of work for the operator," he said. "We want to simplify, and also for consistency. I didn't want to have 20 versions. I also wanted to still use natural ingredients."
In addition to the new locations Livingston County, more locations in Michigan are coming online soon. The restaurant will also add its first locations outside of the state.
Malliaras said a second location will open in Ann Arbor. The city's first location opened a few weeks ago. One or two more locations will open in Grand Rapids, which currently has one, and others are coming to Commerce Township, White Lake, Novi, East Lansing and Lansing.
"In Lorain, Ohio, it is in the planner review phase," Malliaras said. "In Florida, we just signed our first lease in Tampa and we're starting the construction process."
Contact Livingston Daily reporter Jennifer Timar at email@example.com.