Wings Etc. Brings The Heat For 28 Years With ‘Wall of Flame’ Challenge
Wings Etc. Founder Jim Weaver started “The “Wall Challenge” in 1994 as a way to give guests a unique and memorable experience while dining at the local bar and grill
MISHAWAKA, Ind. (Aug. 2, 2022)—Since 1994, when the first Wings Etc. opened in Mishawaka, guests have had the opportunity to test their taste buds and win a spot on the Wings Etc. Wall of Flame by taking “The Wall Challenge”—a challenge that calls for contestants to eat 16 bone-in wings covered in Wings Etc.’s habanero-laced Wall Sauce. There is no time limit for how fast a guest must complete the contest, but the fiery feat must be faced with no sides or drink to help soothe the burn. Over the years, Mishawaka has seen hundreds of guests successfully take the challenge—so many that the Wall eventually had to be recreated. Wings Etc. Founder Jim Weaver said that the idea behind the challenge was to add to Wings Etc.’s unique and fun vibe.
“Since we were a new concept back then, I needed a way to engage the customer and introduce them to Wings Etc.’s fun, laid-back atmosphere,” said Weaver. “It was a way to create a buzz, and in doing so, set Wings Etc. apart from the many other bar/restaurants up and down Grape Road (the location of the first Wings Etc.).”
In 1994, Wings Etc.’s hottest sauce on the menu was their now-retired “Suicide” sauce. Back then, the challenge was to eat 10 bone-in Suicide wings with nothing to drink. Successful candidates would have their picture posted on the restaurant’s wall.
“Cell phones weren’t invented yet, so we had a trusty $19.95 Polaroid camera ready to snap a picture if the challenge was met,” said Weaver. “We allowed the winner to sign and date the picture before we stapled it to the wood paneling on the wall. It wasn’t long before the entire wall was covered with Polaroid pictures. It was instant gratification for the participant, and people loved the idea!”
Eventually, empty space on the wall filled with smiling Wall of Flame winners, so the bar was raised to 16 bone-in wings, and a hotter, habanero pepper-laced sauce was devised.
“At that time, the habanero was thought to be one of the hottest peppers on the market,” Weaver explained. “We had to order them in cases of fresh, whole peppers and actually had trouble obtaining them back then, as not every produce supplier stocked them in inventory.”
Weaver noted that the habanero was chosen because of its flavor. “Not only is it hot, but it offers a unique, citrus-like taste that works well with the Buffalo sauce flavors,” said Weaver. As the concept was further developed, Weaver decided that, rather than add habanero to the Suicide sauce, it would be better to create an entirely new sauce, offering more heat and eliminating some of the texture issues in the Suicide sauce recipe. Thus, “Wall” sauce, the now-reigning “hottest” sauce at Wings Etc., was born.
To pull everything together, Weaver had a “Wall of Flame” banner made, which brought some organization to the Wall (and helped give the Wall sauce its name).
Throughout the years, Weaver has witnessed many take the challenge. The first was a man in his late teens whose friends paid for the wings—considering it cheap entertainment to watch him either succeed or “re-boot” (if you know what we mean) while trying. Weaver noted that he did both, “and I was there to clean it up!”
The challenge has now evolved to people seeing how many “Wall” wings can be devoured in one sitting. Since there is no time limit, guests can technically sit at the restaurant all day and keep eating the wings, as long as they don’t have a drink during the course of the meal.
“Last I remember, the All-Time Champ devoured 85 Wall wings,” said Weaver. “He was a regular customer who came in religiously every Friday. He was maybe 55-ish and lived with his mother. He would bring her in on Mother’s Day, whereby they celebrated ‘her’ day by sharing some wings and a few beers or two. Those were the days!”
While Weaver has never taken the challenge himself, noting that “Ma Weaver didn’t raise no fools!” he did offer some words of advice: “I’m told that milk helps coat the stomach and cool the burn immediately after ingestion. However, I’m also told the real disruption to the digestive system comes the next day!”
The Wall Challenge can be taken at any of Wings Etc.’s 79 locations and earns successful competitors a spot on “The Wall of Flame.” While the Wall sauce is not the hottest sauce on the market, it will still make challengers sweat. Weaver noted that the challenge isn’t meant to be impossible to accomplish but rather a fun opportunity to watch a friend or family member try to be immortalized as a “Wall of Flame” champion.
About the Wings Etc. Grill & Pub Franchise Opportunity
Founded in 1994 by Jim Weaver in the South Bend, Indiana, area, Wings Etc. is a family-friendly grill and pub with a diverse menu featuring award-winning jumbo Buffalo wings, over 20 signature sauces and rubs, premium burgers, wraps, salads, appetizers, sandwiches, subs, kids meals, over 40 domestic and craft beer selections in bottles and on tap, dozens of large HDTVs tuned to sports programming, and a casual, non-corporate-y, laid-back “vibe” that makes people want to just come in and hang out. In addition to its popular sports programming, menu, and beverage options, Wings Etc. offers weekday lunch and food specials, online ordering, and much more.
Franchising since 2004, Wings Etc. Grill & Pub has been named one of Restaurant Business Magazine’s “Future Franchises,” has been named one of Franchise Gator’s “Top 100 Franchises” for several years, and was named a 2020 “Culture 100 Best of the Best” franchise by Franchise Business Review. In June 2021, Wings Etc. was named a “Top 200 Food Franchise” and a “Top 500 North American Franchise” by Entrepreneur Magazine. Wings Etc. continues to grow and succeed by partnering with franchise operators who share the Wings Etc. Vision, Mission, and Values, a commitment to building a successful business while helping build stronger communities and people (and to having fun!).
Wings Etc. offers single and multi-unit franchise options. The initial franchise fee is $39,500, with a $200,000 liquid cash investment, and $500,000 minimum net worth requirement for interested prospects. Wings Etc. offers one of the lowest startup costs and break-even franchise opportunities in the full-service restaurant segment. Priority growth markets include Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Illinois, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Alabama and Florida.
For more information about the Wings Etc. franchise opportunity, visit www.wingsetcfranchise.com.
©2022 Wings Etc., Inc. Franchises independently owned and operated.
Section: Press Releases