CODE meets Joshua Jarvis, Wing Shack

Published 16 September 2020

Founder of Loughton-based chicken restaurant with a cult following, Joshua Jarvis has recently expanded Wing Shack Co. to Clerkenwell and Selfridges Market. Here we talk to Jarvis about how he managed to turn a nine-month prison stint into something positive, supporting ex-offenders in hospitality and what’s next for Wing Shack in 2020 and beyond.

Can you tell us a bit more about Wing Shack Co. for those that haven’t visited?  

Wing Shack Co. is a chicken brand which specialises in different flavoured chicken wings and chicken. We have a wide array of homemade flavours which sets us apart from the typical chicken establishments and a unique atmosphere created by our loyal fanbase of chicken lovers from across the country.

What’s the best thing about working in the hospitality industry?  

For me personally, I love the fact that no two days are the same in this industry. On one hand the high intensity of the day to day running of a business in this industry can be a little taxing. However it is all worthwhile when the end result is seeing the excitement on our customers’ faces as a result of all the hard work that we have put in.

How have you managed to grow a cult following and your business?  

My business partner and myself have been blessed with a strong network of a variety of people from all different fields and we have been able to utilise each one to boost the popularity of the brand. Our social media presence has also been a major factor in boosting the familiarity of Wing Shack within our target audience. Another reason for the cult following is the Wing Shack experience in itself. Great experiences and word of mouth has helped massively in growing our cult following organically.

You’ve managed to turn spending time in prison into a something positive – can you tell us a bit more about that? 

I had already started Wing Shack Co. by the time I went to prison so I was already on a positive path and focussed on getting back to building the business. I knew I had to hit the ground running when I was back so made sure I used my time away productively, either by studying or mentoring my fellow prisoners who wanted to go down a more positive path than the one they were in. 

How was your experience entering the hospitality world after that time?  

I feel it has actually been better for me since I have come out. It was such a surreal experience I believe it invigorated me to really take this business to the heights I believe it is capable of. I want to show other people who may have found themselves in similar situations to me that there are no glass ceilings and this is part of what pushes me in the hospitality world.

Can you tell us about your work with The Right Course and Only a Pavement Away?  

I was meant to speak at Only a Pavement Away’s conference but unfortunately it had been postponed due to COVID- 19. I was due to be on a panel talking about my prison experiences and the prison system in itself. Also, we will be employing former prisoners as staff at Wing Shack Once COVID passes, I will also be delivering courses to prisoners with The Right Course.

How do you help those in prison find their feet again? 

By providing them with a platform where they can see that there is more to life than the negative options they feel is their only hope.

Should more hospitality businesses consider mentoring and hiring ex-convicts, and how can you get the word out there?  

Yeah, 100%. If they are given opportunities and treated fairly then I believe they are less likely to reoffend as they are given the opportunity to move forward and have more options available to them.

What’s the one piece of advice you would give others who were in your position and looking to make it in the industry?  

To try to get in the mindset to spot opportunities. Also being able to apply yourself positively to what you set your mind to.

What’s next for you in 2020 and beyond? 

Growth and expansion of Wing Shack throughout the country is a main one. I also have a fashion brand which I am launching this year so I am concentrating on that at the same time. I’m also focussed on passing on my experiences to people in the same situations as me and others around me.

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