Mondays are typically one of the slowest nights of the week for a bar, but at The Rail in Ravenswood, every table is full, with more customers waiting for a seat. They're all piling in for the pub's jumbo chicken wings covered in made-from-scratch barbecue sauce at the oh-so-cheap price of 10 cents apiece.
Promotions such as 10-cent wings are a loss leader, meaning they're sold below cost to stimulate the sale of other items, such as liquor.
"We pay 33 cents per frozen wing," explains general manager Karl Southard. "By the time you put the celery, blue cheese and the ranch, you're out of a lot of money. There's no way you could do it for 10 cents [and still profit]."
The regular price for The Rail's wings are $8.50 for 12 wings, which breaks down to about 71 cents per wing.
Even with the enhanced liquor sales that 10-cent wing nights yield, only a handful of local bars have preserved that price point in recent years, and rising poultry costs and a generally sluggish economy could be to blame. West Town bar Cleos' long-running 10-cent wing deal was upped to 25 cents about two years ago.
"It was really digging into the pockets to try and sell them for 10 cents," said server Maggie Ednie, who has worked at the bar for five years.
Over the past decade working at Hawkeye's in University Village, manager Chris Delgado has seen the bar's wing deal prices slowly increase from 10 cents to the current deal of 35 cents.
"We had to bring in more [staff] and use more fryers because we were getting really busy," he said, adding that when food deals are extremely cheap, they don't always draw the stay-and-drink customers the bar wants to serve. "You get a customer that just wants to order wings and a water."
Lisa Arnett, RedEye @redeyeeats