Region 6 Visits KOK Wings & Things chain restaurant in Louisiana
by Region 6 advocate, Janea Jamison
In early October, I had the opportunity to visit a relatively new restaurant that is taking over Baton Rouge, Louisiana, by storm, KOK Wings & Things (KOK).
KOK restaurant was initially launched in 2016 and has three locations throughout Louisiana, including Baton Rouge, New Iberia, and Lafayette. According to the Office of Advocacy’s Small Business Profile, Baton Rouge has 83,942 small businesses, and 98.7 percent of metropolitan area businesses have less than 500 employees. While Baton Rouge continues to have a thriving economy with growing small businesses throughout the metro area, sustaining a growing company has had its challenges throughout the years, says owner Tre’jan Vinson. Still, KOK Wings & Things continues to grow into a profitable business.
As I chatted with Vinson, chief marketing officer and owner of KOK Wings, he recalled the humble beginnings and challenges faced a few years ago, and how far they’ve grown. In addition, Vinson discussed his dreams of further expansion throughout the state.
KOK first gained popularity when Vinson and three of his fraternity brothers, Corey McCoy, chief executive officer, Avery Bell, chief operating officer, and Jared Johnson, chief financial officer, gained popularity over their amazing wings and unique sauces by catering college house parties and local events. The four young men quickly saw the potential to enter the food and restaurant industry, and their entrepreneurship journey began.
Initially, KOK was a food truck built collectively by the owners and a family member. Their early business years were far from easy because they were still in college, balancing school and part-time jobs. In the past few years, KOK has served various communities, opened and closed locations, adjusted to unique demographics within rural Louisiana, and even developed unique marketing tactics during COVID-19, such as creating a two-lane drive-thru for to-go and pick-up orders.
Vinson explained that one of the critical factors in sustaining their business is the delegation of tasks, and each owner has a specific area of expertise. With their team of administrative staff and support staff, they continue to operate and hit quarterly goals. Each KOK location has different financial outcomes and profit margin formulas to maintain profitability. Maintaining a profitable business in rural Louisiana completely differs from profitability within a metropolitan area such as Baton Rouge.
Ensuring the safety and protection of every employee, regardless of their position in the company, is of utmost importance for KOK. Although revenue may differ based on location, the company’s commitment to its employees remains the same. That’s why KOK’s owners are apprehensive about the Department of Labor’s (DOL) proposal to increase the minimum salary threshold for the “white collar” overtime exemption under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) from $35,568 to $55,068 annually.
Corey McCoy, owner, and CEO, manages regulatory updates. One of the key issues is that the proposed rule, while ultimately beneficial for the workforce, would significantly impact business revenue if compliance is enforced. Employers face a difficult decision: either increase their employees’ salaries to meet the new salary threshold or switch their employment status from salaried to hourly, which would result in having to pay them overtime. Furthermore, the change in employment status may also affect the employee benefits.
Vinson and McCoy are collaborating to submit public comments and feedback to the Department of Labor (DOL). They aim to offer solutions and alternatives based on the differences in profit margins and the needs of each region or location. Although the proposed rule’s impact may be challenging to navigate, KOK is enthusiastic about working with the Office of Advocacy. They feel confident that their voices will be heard and amplified throughout the federal government. Now that they are connected with the Office of Advocacy to learn about upcoming rules, the owners remain confident in expanding their restaurant chain and adding more locations.
If you are a small business in Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, or New Mexico, email me at Janea.Jamison@sba.gov to inform me about your business’s regulatory burdens or concerns. Please feel free to contact our other regional advocates as well.