SCHENECTADY — Wing-lovers aren’t letting the pandemic take a bite out of their beloved treat.
Business has been brisk this week at area restaurants participating in Downtown Schenectady Wing Week.
Calls poured into Ya Ya’s House Southern Cuisine on Friday afternoon.
“It’s been awesome,” said owner Amanda “Ya Ya” Thompson. “They’re really, really coming in — it was a shocker.”
Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corporation (DSIC) expanded the one-day event to a week this year in an attempt to give businesses a much-needed blast of momentum.
For the 11 businesses participating in the annual event, it’s been a lifeline in an industry battered by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Thompson hopes it’ll stick and Ya Ya’s will gain repeat customers.
“We’re hoping they’ll come out and start patronizing us more,” she said.
Backstage Pub owner Terry Aldrich estimated he’s gone through 700 to 800 pounds of wings since the promotion started on Monday and has even resorted to turning people away.
“We’ve been slammed,” Aldrich said.
Each restaurant has been tasked with coming up with a specific flavor for the week.
At Backstage Pub, it’s “3’s Company,” or a medium, garlic and lemon combination.
20 North Broadway Tavern, which frequently tops the list among local wing connoisseurs, is offering Hot Habanero Honey Mustard.
Wing Week has been packing people in, said co-owner Dave Nigriny.
But the storm that left thousands without power in the city on Wednesday has also attracted hungry patrons seeking comfort food — so much so that crowd control can present a challenge at times.
“We’ve had a lot of people who didn’t have power come down to eat,” Nigriny said. “It’s a lot of juggling.”
While the increase in business is welcome, the onset of winter marks a period of uncertainty for restaurant owners, who are limited to 50 percent capacity.
Several proprietors said it’s too early to say if they’ll continue to offer in-house service during the winter or pivot to takeout only, a decision made by More Perreca’s earlier this week.
And while chicken wings are bringing in the crowds, the ever-popular treat may be a victim of its own success for restaurateurs:
Prices are rising.
20 North co-owner Eric Warde said wings now cost roughly $2.35 per pound — up from roughly $1.80 several months ago.
He thought the price would drop — but it hasn’t.
It’s a problem, “especially when we can’t sell as many drinks with it,” Warde said.
Participating restaurants are offering three sizes and three price points, which is a departure from past years in which attendees purchased a ticket and checked off each location after visiting them.
DSIC Executive Director Jim Salengo said he couldn’t immediately crunch revenue generated last year for the one-day event.
But he said the event typically creates a lot of auxiliary spending at other downtown businesses.
“It’s encouraging people to come out and support local business,” Salengo said.
Downtown Schenectady Wing Week ends Sunday.