Buffalo Wild Wings is one of the biggest restaurant success stories of the decade.
Despite a recession and an overall slump in casual dining, the Minneapolis-based brand has grown from 300 restaurants to more than 1,000 in the past 10 years.
How did the company do it?
By capitalising on the fact that many customers were too broke to buy tickets for sporting events, CEO Sally Smith told Business Insider.
“We had a lot of customers during the downturn who came to our restaurants because of the cost of going to the game,” Smith said in a telephone interview. “We did a really nice job of staying current and aggressively remodeling our restaurants to have a stadium look and feel.”
While many chains focus on the food and the menu, Buffalo Wild Wings invests in the customer experience.
“We wanted to create an exciting environment for our customers where they could put in a customised wing order, have a beer, and enjoy the game just as much as if they had been there,” Smith said.
Each location has numerous TVs, and customers can watch the event of their choice. Customers can play trivia games on tablets as servers entice them to sample new sauces.
“Buffalo Wild Wings looked fun, and cost-conscious families saw it as a two-fer,” Bloomberg analyst Jennifer Bartahus writes. “If you’re going to spend $US40 on your family, the lure of being able to entertain yourself at the same time is strong.”
Buffalo Wild Wings’ success can also be attributed, in part, to consumers moving to affordable subscription services like Netflix over traditional, costly cable packages, writes Bryan Gruley at Bloomberg.
“The restaurants focused on sports as younger clientele came to watch cable and satellite channels they couldn’t afford at home,” Gruley writes. “Buffalo Wild Wings became an early adopter of flatscreens and high-definition TV.”
The company has hired “guest captains” who are responsible for changing TV channels. They were key to the brand’s March Madness strategy, vice president of marketing Bob Ruhland told Business Insider.
“This person isn’t burdened with cleaning tables and delivering food,” Ruhland said. “They make sure that TVs are on the right channel and are going to be really key during March Madness when people are following specific teams.”
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