If he’s honest, Kevin Williams, owner of Wingman’s Wings in The Cookhouse Food Hall at Vail Headquarters in Temecula, had no idea what to expect when stay-at-home regulations were handed down due to the coronavirus outbreak.
His first restaurant, one of four that opened in the food hall in June 2019, was brand-new to a community he wasn’t exactly familiar with. He wondered whether the community would support a black-owned business and whether he’d earned enough of a foothold or customer base to keep the doors open.
While his restaurant is open with limited hours and days, so far, Williams said he’s been gratefully surprised.
“I just really want to shoutout Temecula,” Williams said. “I didn’t know how much of a family the city was until this happened and, at least for me, the city has shown a tremendous amount of love and support.”
He started the business back in 2014, and he said his first catering event was a disaster when the electric table fryer he tried to run on a generator couldn’t even cook one batch of wings at the hip-hop event he was at.
Since then, he has continued to build the business up, attending street fairs and festivals for years, honing his craft and now opening his first brick and mortar at The Cookhouse.
In his first year in Temecula, Williams has experimented with expanded menu options, adding to his wide assortment of Buffalo-style chicken wings, including cauliflower wings, chicken strips and chicken sandwiches.
Some of his attempts have failed, he said, and some have been big hits. Slowly but surely, the restaurant was starting to find its footing, even as a large wings franchise moved into an adjacent shopping center.
Then the stay-at-home orders came down.
Williams suddenly had to gauge how to deal with the few employees he has and make his best guess at how his dine-in focused business was going to go forward.
“As far as a percentage goes, I know we’ve lost about 70% of the constant business,” he said. “I’ve said 70% of profit sales is better than 100% of nothing. I say that because as a small business and entrepreneur, it is easy to get swallowed up in pride in this business. It’s not the strongest that survive, it’s those that adapt to change.
“We’ve partnered with delivery services, and even though they take a major percentage chunk, the advertising and notoriety of our brand and quality food are still relevant,” he said. “Plus, we still can show forth an effort to keep the lights on. We must do something and standing around twiddling our thumbs ain’t gonna pay the rent.”
So far, he said, the adjustments he’s made have kept the lights on and the fryers running at full strength.
“Strangely enough, we’ve actually had a huge community response,” Williams said. “We’ve had lots of love from the city of Temecula. Past and new customers that support us and small businesses have come in and shown lots of love by purchasing packages and popular favorites.
“I want the people who support to understand it’s truly appreciated. It’s a form of support that goes further than supporting a big box food chain. We are on the front lines, trying to save our investments. It’s trial and error, but every dime counted before, now every penny counts more,” he said.
Wingman’s Wings is open for curbside pickup and on third-party delivery app services. To place an order, call 951-383-8068. Follow Wingman’s Wings on Facebook and Instagram. The Cookhouse Food Hall at Vail Headquarters is at 32117 Temecula Parkway, Suite C, in Temecula.
Jeff Pack can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.