Buffalo Wild Wings Wants to Be Your Quick Lunch Destination

Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar Sign
JHP Signs/Alamy
Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD) isn't having a problem keeping its restaurants busy, but the chain of family-friendly sports bars knows that it could do a better job of drawing in customers earlier in the day. Hoping to appeal to potential patrons on lunch breaks or other hurried customers, Buffalo Wild Wings is introducing the B-Dubs Fast Break lunch program.

Guests arriving between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. weekdays will be able to order from a limited menu of items that can be prepared quickly. The easy pick is the chain's signature hand-spun chicken wings, but another feature of the Fast Break menu is a "Pick 2" option, where the hungry can combine one of seven entrees with one of seven sides or appetizers.

The whole "Pick 2" option seems to be taking a page out of Panera Bread's (PNRA) playbook, where half sandwiches are paired up with soups and salads. Then again, given Panera's success over the years serving customers during their lunch breaks, it's not a bad page to steal.

Redefining the Sports Bar

Buffalo Wild Wings obviously isn't the first table-service restaurant to introduce a lunch program that emphasizes speed. Most of the leading casual-dining establishments offer or have offered weekday lunch menus with expedited service.

The situation at Buffalo Wild Wings is unique, however, because getting customers in and out quickly is the antithesis of the sports bar model. A sports bar wants customers to stick around to catch most if not all of an entire game. The most popular television marketing campaign for Buffalo Wild Wings was a series of ads in which bartenders were able to extend games to keep the in-house revelry going.

The typical sports bar patrons will keep topping off their beverages, and that's where the real money is to be made. Beer and wine pack high margins and aren't as susceptible to wild price swings as food is. The cost for a pound of chicken wings, for example, has soared roughly 40 percent over the past year.

Then again, Buffalo Wild Wings isn't your typical sports bar. Customers are surrounded by plenty of screens covering live events, sporting news, and rebroadcasts, but it has more in common with a bistro than a watering hole. It's a family-friendly place, for starters, complete with its own menu for children. It also doesn't rely as much on beer and wine sales as its smaller peers.

Alcoholic beverages accounted for just 21 percent of Buffalo Wild Wings' sales last year. That's surprisingly low. In fact, Buffalo Wild Wings sold as much of its traditional and boneless chicken wings last year as it rang up in alcohol.

Drumming Up Business

Buffalo Wild Wings can use the boost in traffic that the new quick-service lunch menu might generate. The stock was slammed Wednesday after the company posted disappointing quarterly results. Sales growth was reasonable, but escalating costs ate into margins, leading Buffalo Wild Wings to fall short on the bottom line for the second quarter in a row. Getting folks in and out in 30 to 40 minutes for lunch may not solve the margin crunch on its own, but good things tend to happen when you drum up incremental business.

Buffalo Wild Wings is ready to speed up the lunch game for those who are in a hurry, which looks like a win-win for both B-Wild and its customers.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Buffalo Wild Wings and Panera Bread. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Check out our free report on one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.
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