Spotlight: Native Grill and Wings Brought Chicken Wings to the Southwest

spotlight native grill and wings

Everyone loves chicken wings. At least, that’s what the proprietors of Native Grill and Wings have learned over the course of running the business.

Native Grill and Wings started out focusing on other menu items, but then was saved by chicken wings. And now, the company even has multiple locations through a franchise system.

Read more about the company and its journey in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.

What Native Grill and Wings Does

Offers a casual dining sports grill with award-winning wings.

Business Niche

Great wing flavors.

CEO Dan Chaon told Small Business Trends, “Native was the first to bring chicken wings to the southwest; with our history and focus on quality, we have a cult following with our wings. Our guests love that they have the option to order any number they want, in whichever flavor they want. There is always a craving to branch out to other flavors every now and again without giving up a favorite!”

How the Business Got Started

After a big move.

Chaon explains, “In 1978, Floyd and Judy Anderson packed their family into a car in Buffalo, New York and set off for Arizona to follow their dream of owning and running a restaurant. They bought a small local pizza joint, renamed it “Native New Yorker”, after Odyssey’s 1977 hit song, and threw their life savings into building a successful business. After months of terrible sales, long hours, and a roller-coaster of emotions, Judy had an epiphany: Chicken Wings. The Andersons were the first to bring wings to Arizona, and they were an instant hit!”

spotlight native grill and wings

Biggest Win

Forming a partnership.

In September 2015, Chaon partnered with Brad Williams, a Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers powerhouse franchisee, along with a collection of investors to buy a majority of the Native brand.

Chaon says, “This new ownership allows for improvements to the franchise system, increased national brand expansion, and an estimated 100-125 units open by 2021.”

Biggest Risk

Changing the original menu of Native Grill and Wings.

Chaon says, “When Native New Yorker first opened, the family was struggling with the small business and its limited menu. They tried everything, but sales continued to plummet. Judy Anderson had the idea of offering chicken wings as one last effort (remembering how popular they were in Buffalo), the business took off. The rest is history! Adding wings to our menu was a huge risk since we were the first to offer them in the southwest, but it paid off!”

Lesson Learned

People love chicken wings.

Chaon says, “Since now we know that people would lineup for our chicken wings, we would have sold them from day one.”

How They’d Spend an Extra $100,000

Franchise recruitment.

spotlight native grill and wings

Team Tradition

The Hunger Games.

Chaon explains, “In the corporate office, we hold the Hunger Games. (Put your bow down, Katniss. Let us explain.) The Hunger Games is a collection of names of restaurants, and when we can’t decide where to eat lunch, we’ll draw from the Hunger Games, and may the odds be ever in our “flavor!””

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Images: Native Grill and Wings

Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 12 years. Annie covers feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. She has a bachelor’s degree from Columbia College Chicago in Journalism and Marketing Communications.