Today Wavemaker Labs and Wing Zone announced the launch of Wing Zone Labs, a roboticized rethink of the popular chicken wing franchise.
Under the franchise agreement, Wavemaker will have exclusive rights to the Southern California region and has plans to open up to twenty locations in the coming years. According to the announcement, the new Wing Zone Labs will “focus on driving innovation for the company, helping Wing Zone restaurants unlock their full potential with end-to-end automation.”
It’s an interesting approach, one that goes beyond a traditional franchise agreement but falls short of a joint venture. The deal looks like Wing Zone has largely offloaded the financial risk to Wavemaker, who, in a sense, is offloading their financial risk by raising capital through equity crowdfunding. Wavemaker is no stranger to raising funds through equity crowdfunding, as that’s how it (and spinouts like Miso Robotics) have typically raised capital.
Of course, the ability to launch twenty new restaurants will depend on whether the company can raise the funding. The overall equity crowdfunding market has continued to grow over the past few years, but it’s unclear what persistent inflation and what could be a potential recession on the horizon will do to investor appetites.
Regardless, it will also be interesting to watch if Wing Zone begins to implement automation in stores outside of the Southern California market. The announcement makes clear Wavemaker’s new initiative will be the driving force behind automation efforts at Wing Zone, and if the restaurant chain sees positive results with Labs they may begin to encourage other franchisees to consider the use of robotics.