East Coast Wings & Grill used recession to sizzle

The economy may be rocky, but that hasn’t kept East Coast Wings & Grill from growing.

The causal-dining chicken wing franchise had sales of more than $30 million in 2012 compared with sales of about $18 million in 2009.

“The recession probably was one of the best opportunities we’ve had to shift the restaurant and throttle to the next level,” said Sam Ballas, the chief executive of the chain’s parent company, ECW Enterprises Inc., based in Winston-Salem.

From 2009 to 2011, ECW Enterprises added some strategic franchisee contracts but did not aggressively push to open new restaurants. Instead, the company looked for opportunities to do business with major food manufacturers that could produce its sauces, dressings and other products to its specifications. Before the recession, manufacturers wouldn’t talk to East Coast Wings because East Coast couldn’t commit to buying huge amounts. Once economic conditions soured, though, those companies were willing to negotiate.

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