Buffalo Wild Wings has struggled within the last two years with slumping sales as well as a monthslong battle between executives and an activist investor. On February 5, the parent company of Arby’s, Roark Capital Group, closed a $2.9 billion deal to acquire Buffalo Wild Wings. Paul Brown will work as the Chief executive officer of the newly formed holding company Inspire Brands, which encompasses Arby’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, and R Taco.
The following day, Brown sat down with Business Insider to talk about Inspire Brands and his awesome plan for Buffalo Wild Wings. “There will obviously be some changes for the menu, changes towards the experience, and changes towards the marketing,” Brown said. And while Buffalo Wild Wings isn’t going to transform into Arby’s 2., the sandwich chain’s turnaround over the past 5 years – which primarily involved shifts in its menu and marketing – has developed into a blueprint in the future of the chicken-wings chain.
Brown says Buffalo Wild Wings’ biggest problem is that it lost what set it aside from the competition. “I do believe that if you appear back when Buffalo Wild Wings was, really, really successful, it had been really the only person on the market doing what it really was doing,” Brown said. “We experienced a nationalized local sports bar, then more competition has come in, and I think that a number of that competition has been a bit more innovative.”
Brown continued: “I do believe there’s a chance to determine the 21st-century incarnation of the items managed to make it so successful during in particular the early 2000s.” A “sea of sameness” has emerged as being a common problem in the sit-down casual-dining industry in recent years. Buffalo Wild Wings, which includes sought to market itself less as a sports bar and more being a general casual-dining chain, was distracted by the industry sales slump as increasing numbers of millennial diners ditched the sector.
In May, Buffalo Wild Wings’ CEO at the time, Sally Smith, wrote in a letter to shareholders explaining its slumping sales that “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.” Brown plans to emphasize the thing that makes Buffalo Wild Wings menu distinct from other sit-down chains. “In the event it was growing gangbusters, it didn’t position itself against its traditional cast of casual-dining players,” Brown said.
Brown has signaled that Buffalo Wild Wings demands a new menu strategy. Currently, most of the chain’s success is dependent upon chicken prices, which is often extremely volatile. “Ultimately, if you’re in the restaurant business, it comes down to food and innovation,” Brown said. To update Buffalo Wild Wings’ menu, Inspire Brands is embracing Arby’s for inspiration.
When Arby’s spun off from Wendy’s in the year 2011, it absolutely was losing huge amounts of money annually. Brown took over as CEO in 2013 and drastically revamped the chain’s menu and marketing plan. In 2016, Arby’s reached $3.7 billion in sales, making around $1.1 million in sales per US store, up 20% from the time Brown joined the chain. Arby’s had found that it required to serve menu items which customers couldn’t buy somewhere else, Brown said. And when the piece was sold elsewhere, Arby’s needed to get the lowest price.
The chain kept its iconic roast-beef sandwich and Jamocha shake but began rolling out limited-time offerings like the Meat Mountain, containing every meat on Arby’s menu between two buns. At Buffalo Wild Wings, whose menu has been little changed through the years, Brown wants to roll out an identical strategy: searching for things which other chains aren’t serving but that Buffalo Wild Wings can provide.
“There’s been a loss of product development at Buffalo Wild Wings as time passes, partially because casual dining to date has not yet done the maximum amount of of it,” Brown said. Inspire Brands would like to fix by using a “systematic approach” that Brown says allowed Arby’s to rapidly churn out creative new menu items.
Arby’s success has been associated with its creative and sometimes borderline bizarre marketing strategy. The chain debuted the bold “We Have Now the Meats” campaign in 2014. Its social-media manager was given more freedom that year following a tweet comparing Pharrell Williams’ hat on the Grammys to Arby’s logo went viral. Brown described the approach as “produce the personality, the manufacturer, use earned media and all of kinds of earned media to produce a persona around it as well as an awareness around it.”
“If you think regarding it, the Buffalo Wild Wings brand is perfect for that,” he explained. He suggested Buffalo Wild Wings’ “persona” wouldn’t become a rip-away from Arby’s but would involve taking similar risks. “If we sit here per year from now avnnkf that Buffalo Wild Wings is sounding much like Arby’s, then we failed,” Brown said. Brown continued: “I think that will become the key – how you actually take the learnings as well as the capabilities from what we’ve done and leverage those learnings, leverage the infrastructure, and do it in a manner in which the brands look completely different from one another.”
When asked what customers can get to alter at Buffalo Wild Wings, Brown said, “Nothing.” A lot of the work to turn the chain around is going to be occurring behind the scenes, a minimum of for the next month or two, he explained. Brown says he’s already met with some Buffalo Wild Wings franchisees. And then in January, prior to the deal officially closed, Inspire Brands started consumer research to find out what is going wrong on the chain and discover what Buffalo Wild Wings’ new era should look like.