US chicken wing concept Wingstop has announced a minority investment in the UK business operated by franchisee Lemon Pepper Holdings (LPH), which is set to drive further expansion across the country.
The investment follows the opening of a new Wingstop restaurant in Reading last month, the first outside of London and one of several planned new openings this year, which will include Manchester, Kingston-upon-Thames, the Birmingham Bullring and Bristol. It will also see Wingstop chief financial officer Michael Skipworth join the board of LPH.
Wingstop entered into a 100-restaurant agreement with LPH in 2017 as the sole franchisee for the UK market. LPH was founded by Saul Lewin, Tom Grogan, Herman Sahota and Paddy Bamford. The group opened Wingstop's first restaurant in London and its portfolio now has a mix of high street, shopping mall and ghost kitchen locations. The group's UK business saw its highest sales growth in 2020 and opened seven new locations despite coronavirus restrictions.
Grogan said: "We've been delighted by the overwhelming response from guests and look forward to bringing our brand to more regions of the UK in coming years".
Wingstop chief financial officer Michael Skipworth added: "We are thrilled to partner with the Lemon Pepper team as they grow their brand presence in the UK, a market with tremendous long-term potential. We believe this strategic use of our capital will strengthen the development pipeline in that market and I am excited to join the LPH board of directors and play a role in helping achieve the potential for the Wingstop brand in the UK."
Dow Schofield Watts and Baker McKenzie served as advisers to Wingstop for the transaction.
Founded in 1994 and headquartered in Texas in the US, Wingstop operates and franchises more than 1,500 locations worldwide. In the fiscal year 2020, Wingstop's system-wide sales increased 28.8% year-over-year to approximately $2b (£1.41b), marking the 17th consecutive year of same store sales growth. Independent franchisees account for more than 98% of Wingstop's total restaurant count of 1,579 as of 27 March 2021.