Buffalo Wild Wings

Oct 25, 2021 | Report Announcements

Buffalo Wild Wings (BWW) enjoys a unique positioning as the largest sports bar brand in the US (although 4th largest in domestic sales among the $1B+ casual chains) with a historical brand equity around wings (paired with 26 B-Dubs flavors), beer & sports. As BWW replicates the social and interactive energy of a stadium with wall-to-wall high-def TVs (creating a cost effective and enjoyable place for guests to watch games and hang-out with friends), its dine-in experience can’t be duplicated at other wing chains like Wingstop. To this end, the brand’s experiential marketing emphasis targets both those who are eager to return to normal activities and those who are sticking close to home. This is exemplified by its “We Need Sports. Sports Need Us.” campaign featuring a vendor walking through an empty baseball stadium with yells of “Beer here” echoing throughout the stands. Even before the lockdown, BWW was already repositioning around objectives to: (1) diversify beyond bone-in wings; (2) leverage improvements to product quality, cook time & alcohol offerings in order to further differentiate from local sports bars; and (3) communicate a compelling reason for consumers to leave their homes in order to come socialize in-store. Menu diversification efforts are meant to: manage material bone-in wing price volatility & inflation; attract more guests for non-sporting events (including the lunch occasion); and remove the veto vote from women/health conscious with offers like Cauliflower Wings & a revamped salad platform. Also, a broader menu helps BWW to better compete in its increasingly important off-premise business. In any case, the key question remains – How will a brand that targets experiential sports-based dining occasions fare in a post-lockdown world? While evidence of packed sports stadiums (like during the NBA finals) suggest that many consumers (especially younger demos) are eager to forget the past and return to normal, its comp outlook ultimately will depend on any future government lockdown measures which could be implemented. Further, the chain must also struggle with pre-existing secular sales pressures, including: inroads into off-premise wing sales made by Wingstop and many other competitors (including new virtual brands); declining NFL ratings; declining mall retail traffic; and declining beer & alcohol consumption. To summarize, BWW may need to re-assess: value (especially given such huge wing cost inflation); how to better distinguish its core bone-in wing proposition; how to adapt to the changing landscape around the consumption of TV sports; and how to restore demand for in-person experiential occasions. In conclusion, while BWW has considerable brand equity as the largest and perhaps most iconic sports bar chain in the US, its challenge is how to improve its relevancy in the new world it finds itself operating in.

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