Every quarter, we honor team members who go above and beyond in their role each day. These exceptional individuals represent our values and work hard to make Wingstop great. Athena Thomas was recently named Team Member of the Quarter and continues to prove why she’s an invaluable asset for the company.
What team members had to say:
“Athena is the ultimate team player! She is thoughtful, diligent, proactive, and friendly. Best of all, she performs well under pressure and always with a genuine smile.”
“Athena embodies our Wingstop values in all she does. As our Innovation lead, she is able to collaborate across all functions within Wingstop to drive our product and flavor agenda forward. She understands the business as it stands today while helping us prepare for the future.”
We got the chance to sit with Athena to answer a few questions about her love for our product, the brand and her path to success at Wingstop.
What attracted you to Wingstop when you first started?
Before I even started working here, I loved eating Wingstop. I was crazy about the fries and the different flavors for the wings. I also had a friend who started working at Wingstop and told me what a great experience he was having. When a role opened, I jumped at the chance to come work for Wingstop. And now that I’ve been with the company nearly three years, I still love it. In my current role, I lead new product innovation and it’s exciting to work on bringing new flavors and menu items to our restaurants.
What do you think are some essential skills all innovators should have?
Working in innovation requires having a solid understanding of how the business functions and how innovation fits into the overall business strategy. It requires leading cross functional teams, problem solving and strong presentation skills. Also, innovators should be intellectually curious and have a mindset of driving change to achieve the business goals.
What does being named Team Member of the Quarter mean to you?
It’s such an honor to be recognized as there are a lot of team members throughout the organization doing great work. Getting this award motivates me to keep pushing for success. I think it also shows the value of innovation and how important it is to deliver a great experience for our guests. It’s great to know the work of myself and my cross-functional partners is valued.
What do you believe has made you successful in your career?
I think working collaboratively with others and being flexible has helped me to be successful in my career. So much of what we do now is integrated with multiple internal departments and outside vendors. It’s crucial to be able to bring people together to work on a common goal to deliver positive business results. Being flexible is also very important because our industry is fast-changing, and we constantly must solve new challenges.
How do you Serve the World Flavor in your role?
I partner with cross-functional partners such as consumer insights, supply chain, operations and marketing to develop and launch new menu items. Past projects that I’ve worked on include refreshing our sides menu with loaded fries and Cajun fried corn, laying the groundwork for our 2019 limited time flavor offerings like Ancho Honey and Harissa Lemon Pepper, and launching improved boneless wings and tenders in early 2020.
Plus, I’m currently working on some new exciting products for 2021. I can’t wait for our guests to try them next year!
What do you attribute as your most valuable accomplishment at Wingstop?
Launching improved boneless wings and tenders in early 2020 was a key accomplishment and a very fun project. This was a great example of cross-functional teamwork as I worked hand in hand with our supply chain and consumer insights teams to develop the new product versions and get feedback from consumers. I also enjoyed interacting with our brand partners (franchisees) as we tested and rolled out the new boneless wings and tenders. Overall, I learned a lot from this project and it’s great to hear positive feedback from our guests.
Lastly, what’s your favorite wing flavor?
Without question my favorite flavor is Mango Habanero! I can’t help but also plug two of my other favorites – Cajun fried corn and crispy tenders. These items are some of our best kept secrets and I’m sure you’ll enjoy them too.