Buffalo Wild Wings' new plan to crush Chipotle and Panera Bread is working
Buffalo Wild Wings wants to take over the lunch business.
In early July, the chicken chain introduced a 15-minute lunch guarantee. On Tuesday, while announcing second quarter earnings, the company reported that the new program was already driving traffic.
"We're encouraged by the sales we've seen from the program as it addresses a key daypart," CEO Sally Smith said in a call with analysts on Tuesday. "The Fast Break Lunch guarantee promotes team member and fan engagement in a fun and competitive way, and also engages our fans with our tablet technology."
Executives said that the new guarantee is a way to draw customers who may not be Buffalo Wild Wings loyalists, but instead are seeking an inexpensive and convenient deal from any restaurant.
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With the rise of fast-casual chains like Panera Bread and Chipotle, a number of casual dining chains have struggled to keep up with the speedier rivals.
Casual dining chains such as Applebee's, Olive Garden, and TGI Friday's have recently debuted brand revamps in attempts to set themselves apart from the competition. Many of the changes are clearly inspired by the fast-casual industry, including redesigns that emphasize convenience, faster customer turnaround, and increased attention to ingredients.
According to Buffalo Wild Wings executives, the lunchtime guarantee is key because it focuses on what the chain does well, instead of trying to be something it isn't.
"We're seeing an exceptional initial response in driving traffic to our wings," said COO James Schmidt. "Those are core to us and we're known for particularly the wings."
Further, the chain already had the capability to serve lunch speedily. Buffalo Wild Wing's reported that the money lost by giving away free lunches to customers who didn't receive their meals in 15 minutes is currently just half of what the company budgeted for.
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The 15-minute guarantee is part of a bigger plan at Buffalo Wild Wings to boost its quick-service lunch business. The company is investing in growing its takeout business, with takeout sales increasing 25% in the second quarter over the prior year on a dollar basis.
Buffalo Wild Wing's sales have been slipping in recent quarters. In the second quarter, sales at company-owned stores open for at least one year fell 2.1% during the quarter, and fell 2.6% at franchised restaurants.
As the new 15-minute lunch guarantee launched in the early third quarter, it's true impact on sales will not be revealed until the company's next earnings report. A thriving lunch business would be key to turning around sales at the chain — and Buffalo Wild Wings has realized time is of the essence.
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