Buffalo Wild Wings CEO hits back at activist investor and blames chain’s problems on millennials

Buffalo wild wings

As Buffalo Wild Wingscontinues its power struggle with activist investor Marcato Capital, CEO Sally Smith says the problem isn’t the chain — it’s the industry.

“Casual dining restaurants face a uniquely challenging market today,” Smith wrote in a letter to shareholders on Tuesday.

Smith outlined three of the biggest problems plaguing restaurants — especially casual dining chains — in 2017: changing customer tastes, slowing mall traffic, and declining sports viewership.

“Millennial consumers are more attracted than their elders to cooking at home, ordering delivery from restaurants and eating quickly, in fast casual or quick-serve restaurants,” Smith wrote. “Mall traffic has slowed. And, surprisingly, television viewership of sporting events (important for us, especially) is down.”

The letter went on to attempt to convince shareholders to vote for the new board members nominated by Buffalo Wild Wings — and not those nominated by activist investor Marcato. Marcato has been battling for control of Buffalo Wild Wing’s board since August 2016, arguing that leadership at the wings-and-beer chain is misguided and lacking in experience.

Buffalo Wild Wings certainly isn’t the only casual dining chain struggling to keep up in 2017. Brands such as TGI Fridays, Ruby Tuesday, and Applebee’s have faced sales slumps and dozens of restaurant closures.

“It’s tough to find one [casual dining chain] that’s doing alright,” Wedbush analyst Colin Radke told Business Insider in March.

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