Editor’s note: This story was originally published by FOD’s sister publication, Franchise Times

When Zak Omar took over Atomic Wings in 2016, he brought with him years of experience as a quick-service restaurant operator with knowledge of the advantages a drive-thru can bring.

Now that Omar approved a drive-thru prototype at Atomic Wings, the expectation, he said, is to separate the brand from the rest of the chicken wing category.

“We’re going to be first to market with it and we feel it’s going to provide a tremendous advantage for us and help push the brand forward,” Omar said. “We feel that wings, tenders and boneless wings travel really well and we can do that in a very fast way that will make it easy for customers to just come through our drive-thrus.”

Before purchasing the New York-based wing concept, Omar was a multi-unit Dunkin’ franchisee, growing his portfolio to 12 locations. Omar said having a drive-thru continues to be a factor when customers are deciding on food options.

Zak Omar, CEO of Atomic Wings.

“You’re seeing a lot of double-drive-thru lanes open up, and that’s what customers prefer,” Omar said. “For us, we feel it will provide another 30 percent in sales.”

The move to drive-thru comes after a kitchen redesign, which Omar said moved hand-off stations closer to pickup windows and boosted speed-of-service times.

“We’re expecting a service time of about four minutes,” Omar said. “Over the years, we’ve invested in a lot of equipment with Henny Penny, who is a third-party partner of ours, to get us down in our cook times and make sure we meet the customer demand there.”

Atomic Wings isn’t going to retrofit every restaurant, as the brand has many locations in New York City that wouldn’t be suitable. Instead, it will identify new units and select existing locations where drive-thrus would work.

“It will be a mix,” Omar said. “Everyone is competing for the drive-thru space, so we’re competing against many other brands and there’s only a limited amount of drive-thru space. Where we can get them, we prefer to have them, but where we can’t, we have our traditional route.”

Franchisees Jalal and Shermeen Kapadia opened the first drive-thru location for Atomic Wings earlier this month. The owners have rights for the greater Houston market and bring a background in foodservice and hospitality to the Atomic Wings venture.

Six years ago, after working for Sysco, Jalal Kapadia purchased a grocery store with a meat market and a barbecue restaurant. From there, he entered the QSR space, becoming a multi-unit operator of Texas-based Hartz Chicken.

About two years ago, he came across Atomic Wings and decided to look into becoming an area developer.

“Part of what drew me to getting into the deal was that they were innovative,” Kapadia said. “These new drive-thrus are an example. If you think about your typical wing restaurant, they don’t have them, partially because it takes roughly 15 to 18 minutes to crank out the wings. With Atomic Wings, though, they’ve figured out how to innovate the process to expedite and have speed of service to the customer while maintaining quality.”

Kapadia also said the increase in off-premises sales was a deciding factor in pursuing drive-thru units with Atomic Wings.

“After the pandemic, drive-thrus and curbside pickups have been huge in the QSR space,” he said. “This lends itself to that. The corporate team also provides equipment that lends itself to the drive-thru. Our location also has a very long lane, so there’s some structural efficiencies there as well, with multiple cars being able to fit in.”

Omar said the experience the Kapadias bring and the new drive-thru location being next to a major freeway in Houston gives him confidence that it will be a successful model for the system.

Jalal Kapadia said they plan to open between 15 and 20 Atomic Wings over the next five years. Atomic Wings has 24 open locations, and has signed agreements for expansion in Arkansas, Indiana, Missouri, Nevada, South Dakota and Tennessee.