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Wingstop CEO: Ghost kitchens are coming

Wingstop remains in high growth mode when it comes to opening new restaurants. And to speed up the process and keep sales flaming hot, it's tapping into the ghost kitchen craze.

"We also have started working in earnest on ghost kitchens as a key part of our strategy. The best example of that is our recent introduction of the brand into Manhattan. We started with a ghost kitchen. We have complimented it with a couple other street-side locations. We'll continue to build out the borough of Manhattan over the course of the next year or two," Wingstop CEO Charlie Morrison said on Yahoo Finance Live.

Ghost kitchens are essentially small food prep operations with no waiters or dining rooms. Their singular goal is to service often an influx of online orders. Wendy's, for instance, plans to open 700 ghost kitchens in the U.S. by 2025.

Wingstop told investors it's aiming to open six to eight new locations in the busy Manhattan market this year. The company now has about 1,500 domestic restaurants in operation, and sees the potential for 4,000 over time.

Added Morrison, "Quite frankly, we think there is more density for us to go by way of this strategy."

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - MAY 06: The Wingstop logo is seen on the front door of one of the company's restaurants on May 06, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois.  Chicken prices have risen sharply this year as suppliers struggle to keep up with demand, fueled in part, by the popularity of new chicken offerings from fast-food restaurants.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Wingstop's sales and profits support Morrison's ghost kitchen push.

Fourth quarter domestic same-store sales surged 7.5%, continuing more than two years of impressive gains. Adjusted operating profits rose 24.5% despite inflationary pressures around chicken wings and labor.

The company noted on its earnings call that the spot price of bone-in chicken wings rose more than 70% in 2021.

Wingstop reaffirmed its three- to five-year outlook of mid-single digit percentage domestic same store sales growth.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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