Wings Etc. continues to reign as Michiana’s ‘Best Wings’ after 28 years

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (Dec. 14, 2022)—For over 28 years, Wings Etc. has reigned as the Michiana-area “Best Wing” champion according to the public. The Grill & Pub’s recent “Best Wing” win in the annual South Bend Tribune “Best of the Best Official Community’s Choice Awards” allowed the popular restaurant to clinch the title for another year. Wings Etc. founder Jim Weaver said that despite winning each year since the establishment’s opening, he still feels a bit nervous when voting time comes.

“I hold my breath each year,” said Weaver. “There’s so much good competition out there, and we’re not the only chicken wing joint in town anymore. It’s important. Not only does it give us bragging rights for another year, but it’s a great ego booster for me, personally, knowing our guests regard us so highly.”

Wings Etc. has more than just the wings for which the title is won to thank, however. Weaver attributes the win to the “great times” part of the brand’s promise as well.

“It’s more than the product,” said Weaver. “Yes, our wings are fresh and plump, but every restaurant and bar likes to think they serve the biggest, best, freshest products on earth at the fairest price possible.

“Fact is, it isn’t always the food,” he added. “Every hospitality-related business has established its own unique vibe and personality, and that’s what resonates with the customer. At Wings Etc., our staff has the responsibility of preserving our brand personality. It starts with a smile, prompt, friendly service, and caring about the customer experience. Oh, and one last thing that’s all too often missing: a sincere ‘thank you’ at the end of the engagement.”

The first Wings Etc. opened in 1994 in Mishawaka on Grape Road. The location initially won “Best Wings” in a contest put on by a free weekly newspaper called Michiana Now. The paper catered to entertainment venues in the greater South Bend area. While many of the publication’s advertisers were local bars that often had live acts as part of their attraction, Weaver saw a great avenue to reach his target audience.

“Although Wings Etc. didn’t offer entertainment, per se, I felt the young college-age readership that Michiana Now catered to, was in fact, a crowd likely to patronize my newly opened sports bar concept,” said Weaver. “So, it became part of my marketing budget to religiously advertise in the publication each and every week to build awareness.”

That awareness paid off when, in the fall of 1994, Michiana Now announced their annual reader’s choice contest, where readers could select their favorite establishments in various contests. Several weeks later, Wings Etc. won.

Michiana Now ran the contest for several years before it ceased to exist. The contest was then picked up by the South Bend Tribune, which has grown the annual publication in both categories and popularity ever since.

That first year, the win came as a surprise to Weaver, who was busy establishing the newly opened Wings Etc. as the sports bar of choice in the area.

“It was a pleasant surprise when I was notified of the win,” said Weaver. “I guess I really didn’t realize the popularity we were establishing with our customer base at that time.”

With no social media in 1994, word of mouth helped carry the restaurant to the top of the list. Plus, Weaver noted, voters had to actually send in their votes in via the U.S. Mail. Today, voting takes place easily and conveniently online.

One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is Weaver’s love for the business and those who keep supporting Wings Etc. year after year.

“Thank you, Michiana, for allowing me to live my dream,” Weaver said.

Wings Etc. has several locations in the Michiana area, including two locations in South Bend and the original location in Mishawaka.