Campus & Community / Magazine

Zingers adds zing with beer, extra-hot wings

After a year of tweaks and experimentation, Max Krieger is ready to heat things up at Zingers, the fast-casual chicken-and-chili restaurant that he and his father, Dennis Krieger, opened near the DU campus in August 2010. While Zingers is gaining attention for its ghost-chili-fueled “hottest wings in Colorado,” Krieger hopes obtaining his liquor license over the summer will help him compete with other restaurants in a crowded neighborhood.

Krieger (BSBA hospitality ’09) says he waited so long to get a liquor license for two reasons: When he opened, neighboring burger joint the Crimson and Gold Tavern was battling the city to get its liquor license due to its proximity to the Ricks Center for Gifted Children (the Crimson and Gold eventually won); and when the South Philly Cheese Steaks chain took over the former Skew and Stick-E-Star spot at 2070 S. University Blvd. in April, it changed the game for Zingers.

“When it was Skew, even though they had alcohol it was higher-end food,” Krieger says. “Now that they’ve gone down to the quick-service level where we’re at, it’s direct competition. We had to make moves.”

Though the license covers beer, wine and spirits, Krieger says he plans to serve only beer — on draft — mainly as a complement to the food.

“We’ll be able to pull in more customers right off the bat by having beer,” he says. “We’re going to pull in people who normally would make the decision to go to Jordan’s or somewhere else with alcohol, and we’re hoping that our late-night business gets a boost.”

Other changes at Zingers in the past year include lowering the price on many menu items, adding a selection of wraps for the health-conscious and supplementing the menu with vegetarian and gluten-free options. Yet another change will come in September, when Krieger plans to highlight his ultra-hot “WTF” wings with a “Man vs. Food”-style challenge: eat 12 discounted wings in 15 minutes and you win a $20 prize. What’s the catch? These wings are made with ghost chilies, an Indian pepper more than 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce. You have to sign a waiver before eating them. Already crews from Denver news stations Fox 31 and Colorado’s Channel 2 have been by to report on the mouth-burning munchies.

It’s all part of a larger effort, Krieger says, to let people know that Zingers exists, and to let them know what it has to offer. He’s also using everything from a “no hassle” electronic customer loyalty program to text messages to help spread the word.

“It used to just be word of mouth — if you had great food, you could have a great restaurant because everyone would talk about you,” he says. “Now it’s much more of a marketing game. Your food can be awesome, but if you’re not marketing, you’re not out on the street, you’re not shouting to the world, you’re just one of many.”




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