EL PASO, Texas — What was once the cheapest part of the bird, the chicken wing has now become the most expensive cut to obtain for restaurants.
Chico Nelan, owner of Angry Owl Southwest Grill and Cantina, said the cost of chicken had gone 2.5 to 3 times higher than before the pandemic. This increase was of course reflected in his menu costs for a while. At one point, a six-piece bone-in wing order cost $15.
“Once it got to that point, there was just no value to our guests anymore and there was no profitability in the product,” Nelan explained.
Nelan took the bone-in wings off the menu. His kitchen adapted by cutting chicken breasts into eight boneless wings, hand battering, and frying them. The profit margin is better for the chicken breast than it is for the wing right now. Not only that, but Nelan says they’ve kept the same quality of food they strive for.
“I think we’ve adapted well,” Nelan said.
Angry Owl also has other popular items that are not chicken-based. Nelan says they have good sales on their jalapeño poppers and nachos.
But at El Paso Wing House, where bone-in wings are the most popular, the price increase has been tough on the new business.
“Yeah it’s hard right now but we’re trying to up with the prices… keeping them as low as we can,” said Juan Lopez, the owner of Wing House.
The prices for their chicken supply had gone up 85%, causing their menu prices to go up by 99 cents.
Lopez says he wants to keep his prices low for the community. His restaurant receives a lot of foot traffic from UTEP and the nearby Las Palmas medical center.