Atomic Wings featured in Crain's New York Business

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Tue Sep 22 2020 00:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

When brothers Zak and Ray Omar took a meeting with the founder of Atomic Wings in 2014, they had no idea they would be running the company one day.

At the time of the meeting, the pair, Dunkin' Donuts franchisees, were just interested in opening a few locations of the chicken wing restaurant first conceived by founder Adam Lippin in 1981 and opened in 1989. But two years later, the whole company was theirs.

Lippin “saw what we were able to offer, and he’s, like, ‘Hey, do you guys want to just buy the business from me?’ ” Zak Omar said, adding that Lippin admired their passion. “He says, ‘I think it will be in better hands if you guys take it over.’”

Zak Omar became chief executive. Ray Omar took the role of president, overseeing construction and development.

Atomic Wings prides itself on high-quality ingredients and a preparation process that follows the tradition of what it dubs the wing capital of the world: upstate New York. It competes with Wingstop and Wings Over and looks to differentiate itself by serving fresh—never frozen—fare.

The pair got to work immediately. The new CEO consolidated suppliers to one vendor. He implemented a consistent marketing strategy across Atomic Wings’ two brick-and-mortar locations. The company invested in advertising. And he set about finding a way to get those franchise locations to grow while marching in the same direction.

“When you’re new and you come on board and you try to standardize, you try to bring order to the Wild, Wild West,” Zak Omar said.

“For us, the biggest thing was just building the infrastructure around the brand,” Ray Omar noted. “The brand was really distinguished in New York City, but in terms of supply-side management, back-of-the-house operations and just professionally updating the brand, it needed a newer image.”

Their experience with Dunkin' Donuts franchises helped them understood the mindset of the franchisees they were now managing.

“I had to show them: ‘Hey, you know, I understand that you’ve been doing it your way, but this is the correct way, and this is how you’ll increase your business,’ ” Zak Omar said. “I had to show them that I was in the trenches with them.”

The company has grown its footprint. When the Omars took over, Atomic Wings had two locations. It now has 11, which sprawl across Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens as well as locations upstate and in Connecticut and Maryland, with six more set to open this year. At a moment when the Covid-19 pandemic is slamming most food establishments, Atomic Wings’ business, centered around takeout, is thriving. It has grossed $8 million so far this year. Average store sales are more than $850,000, with sales at some locations exploding by 100%, the company said.

Sights on expansion

Tenacity has helped get the brothers through some tough times. Their father died in 2013, the year Zak Omar was diagnosed with leukemia. He credits his wife, his family and the franchisees for their support in getting him through it all in the ensuing years.

Their next mission: expansion. The duo want to have 100 locations in five years.

“We want to become a regional brand and focus on the New York tristate area, as well as the surrounding areas, and become a great destination for wings that rivals some of our competitors,” Ray Omar said.

“We’d like to be mentioned in the same category and space” as Buffalo Wild Wings, he added.

“I like what the future holds for us,” Zak Omar said.