Buffalo Wild Wings is blaming the NFL for a slowdown in business

According to Buffalo Wild Wings, a rough third quarter can be blamed on the NFL schedule.

On Wednesday, the chicken wings chain reported $US455.5 million in sales, less than the $US466.8 million expected by analysts. Shares are crashing as much as 18% on the news.

While management cited food and labour costs as factors, they said much of the blame lay in a sub-ideal sports calendar for selling wings this fall. This year, the NFL season opened a week later than last year, on September 10 as opposed to September 4 in 2014.

“If you looked at September as a month, there were six days in which we didn’t have college or pro football when we did last year, and then also a UFC fight and a boxing match,” Buffalo Wild Wings COO James M. Schmidt said in an earnings call. “That really impacted both the month and the quarter as a whole.”

Sporting events, especially football games, drive much of Buffalo Wild Wings sales, as sports fans flock to locations to watch the game or order out for home viewing parties.

Looking ahead to the fourth quarter, Buffalo Wild Wings executives are placing the blame not on the NFL, but on holiday festivities, forcing the company to revise 2015 net earnings goal from 13% to single-digits.

While the company expects fans to show up to root for their favourite NFL teams heading towards the Super Bowl and college teams reaching bowl games, inopportune timing of Halloween and Christmas are expected to induce a sales slump. This year, Halloween falls on a Saturday, while Christmas falls on a Friday, providing alternative activities on days that customers would otherwise be watching sports and buying wings.

“Typically how Saturday is — especially during football — is a bigger day for us than a Friday is. So that’s the nature of why we think it would be a negative,” CEO Sally Smith said of the impact of the holiday shifts in the earnings call. “Similarly on the Christmas Holiday, Friday night would be typically a bigger sales volume day than a Thursday.”

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