Buffalo Wild Wings
For years, few eateries beyond the local pub could get the combination of football, beer and wings just right.
Those simple core elements were either relegated to sideshows by servers in three-sizes-too-small uniforms, just part of the scenery amid sports memorabilia or sports network-inspired arcade games or considered just minor touches of an overall slow-casual concept. It didn't take long for Buffalo Wild Wings to make all of those models seem overthought and downright wrong.
Since 2007, the Columbus, Ohio-based chain's overall restaurant count has spiked from 439 right around the time Peyton Manning was guiding the Indianapolis Colts to a Super Bowl XLI win over the Chicago Bears to 776 at the start of the 2011 NFL season.
As a result, total revenue by the third quarter of last year was up nearly 31% from the same period in 2010, to $197.8 million. Combined same-store sales were up nearly 5% during the same stretch and Chief Executive Sally Smith was forecasting 7.5% growth in same-store sales in the fourth quarter, noting that "Football fans are filling our restaurants and our fourth-quarter marketing plans are stronger than ever."
This is a chain with huge plans for 2012 that include 12% unit growth, 20% net earnings growth and overall expansion that will bring it to more than 1,000 locations by the start of 2013. What it doesn't have, however, is a partnership with the NFL that allows it to refer to the on-screen excitement as anything but an ambiguous "The Playoffs" in its ads.
The NFL and its product are just as important to Buffalo Wild Wings' success as its spicy chicken or pints of suds. Its continued growth is impressive, but solidifying its football cred with a Super Bowl commercial could make consumers associate Buffalo Wild Wings with NFL action as easily as they associate hot wings with tears, sweat and buckets of bleu cheese.