The four Cornell alumni who purchased and revived their favorite Collegetown restaurant, Wings Over Ithaca, now own the entire Wings Over brand after acquiring the franchise.
The four friends and Cornellians purchased the Wings Over brand, which has 40 restaurants, this past week, and are hoping to inject a youthful, entrepreneurial spirit into the wing shops, which span 13 states and pay a fee to Wings Over to use the brand’s trademarked menu, logos and concept.
Wings Over Ithaca reopened in March when the four Cornell alumni became franchisees and opened the restaurant on Dryden Road after the previous location, on East Hill, shut down. Less than seven months after opening that shop, the group closed on a deal this past week and now own the entire Wings Over brand.
“It’s been a crazy 12 months,” Dan Leyva ’14 said in an interview last week, before the deal had officially closed.
Along with Leyva, who is leading the operation as COO, Kevin Mok ’14, Raunak Nirmal ’14 and Mike Wang ’07 will be managing the brand.
The wings shop was their favorite restaurant in college, which led them to reopen the Ithaca location.
“It’s really coming full-circle to what we’re doing now,” Leyva said.
Leyva said the last year had been “a little unreal,” and that deals like this usually take years to complete. The loyalty that the alumni felt in Ithaca, Leyva and Mok said, helped persuade them to purchase the entire franchise, the price of which they declined to reveal.
“We truly love the brand,” Leyva said, adding that each of the four Cornellians brings a different strength to the table.
Mok, who will be focusing on strategy and expanding the Wings Over brand, said he hopes to bring some “young blood” to the franchise, creating a better website, making ordering easier and more.
He recalled that when the four alumni began discussing buying the Ithaca store about a year ago, one of them texted: “Maybe we should buy the whole brand.”
Leyva said the purchase was the result of many people’s hard work — not just the four Cornell alumni — and will involve a lot of hard work to expand the brand. He told QSR Magazine that the group hopes to have 100 Wings Over stores in the next three years.
“It’s definitely going to be a lot of work going forward,” he said. “We have a lot of people to thank.”
The Ithaca restaurant serves a wide variety of wings, burgers and other food, and Leyva said that the food has made dedicated patrons in cities from Raleigh, North Carolina, to Columbus, Ohio.
“The great thing is that we don’t have to reimagine the food, because the food is the best part of the entire concept,” he said.