NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Sorry, Tom Brady. Chicken wing and beer joint Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD) doesn't need you in the NFL to cook up savory sales for its investors as the calendar turns to the fall months.
"People still love football, they'll go whether New England is playing or not, as they might have another team they want to go watch," said Buffalo Wild Wings President and CEO Sally J. Smith in an interview with TheStreet, dismissing the possibility of a potential sales shortfall at New England locations due to Brady's suspension for using under-inflated footballs. On Tuesday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell upheld the four-game suspension imposed on the New England Patriots star quarterback and four-time Super Bowl champ.
Fortunately for B-Dubs, as it's affectionately referred to by its fans, the chain has several other things in its favor that could boost sales and profits in coming quarters following a sluggish start to the year.
The first is a series of price increases set to go into effect soon that will offset hourly wage hikes and other rising costs such as health insurance in states such as California and New York. In the third quarter, the company will increase its prices on alcohol, mostly for beer. Sales of alcohol represent about 21% of Buffalo Wild Wings' business.
"We expect keg prices to be going up, and they have, so we will take modest increases on beer and ... some increases on alcohol," said Smith. Then, in about 25% of Buffalo Wild Wings markets, it plans to adjust prices for food offered on its two popular promotional days -- Wing Tuesday and Boneless Thursday. Come November, says Smith, Buffalo Wild Wings' new menu will reflect "small" price increases, depending on the market.
By the end of the year, Buffalo Wild Wings estimates these adjustments will increase overall pricing by about 3.4%. Higher prices will work hand in hand with new food items to drive the company's sales and profits during the critical fall football season.
In April, the company rolled out a new lunch menu with smaller plate sizes that is served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the U.S., and until 3 p.m. in Canada. The new menu is designed to make the chain more of a lunch destination, and performed well with customers in the second quarter, according to Smith.
More recently, Buffalo Wild Wings introduced a beer-themed menu for the summer in collaboration with the Boston Beer Company (SAM) - Get Report. Dishes include beer cheese dippers -- pretzel bites, kettle chips or tortilla chips served with beer-inspired cheese dip -- and chicken wings flavored with the popular cinnamon-flavored whiskey Fireball.
The prospect of better results later this year led investors to overlook disappointing second quarter results this week. The company missed Wall Street's sales and earnings projections for the second consecutive quarter, but shares of Buffalo Wild Wings spiked 7.2% in after-hours trading on Tuesday.
Buffalo Wild Wings reported earnings of $1.12 a share, falling shy of forecasts for $1.28 a share. Net sales tallied $426 million, slightly below forecasts of $429 million. The company also lowered its 2015 earnings growth projection to 13% from 18%. Encouragingly, though, execs pointed out on an earnings call with analysts that the 18% earnings growth projection would have been maintained if not for some costs related to the company's acquisition in June of 41 franchised stores.
That gave investors hope Buffalo Wild Wings underlying sales trend remained intact.
Investors may also have chosen to focus on Buffalo Wild Wings' solid sales trends thus far in July. Through the first four weeks of the third quarter, same-restaurant sales at company operated restaurants are up 4.8%. At franchise locations, same-restaurant sales have increased 2%. If July's pace of sales can be sustained or improved upon as football season begins in early September along with higher prices, it could lead to better third quarter results compared to the first half of the year.
As a casual dining restaurant, Buffalo Wild Wings will sidestep the direct impact of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's win on pushing through a $15 an hour minimum wage for workers at fast-food companies. But Smith, who has led the company since 1996 and sits on the board of the National Restaurant Association, still had strong opinions on the subject.
"I am sorry they singled out the fast-food industry -- there is nothing better than being able to pay people, that is the great part of being in this job," said Smith. "But I think we have to remember that the restaurant industry trains America," she continued, echoing comments made by Dunkin Brands (DNKN) - Get Report CEO Nigel Travis to TheStreet in an interview on July 23.
Smith believes there will be some unintended consensuses from the law, but that businesses will figure out a way to cope. "I have a franchisee who doesn't hire anyone under the age of 21, not because they can't serve beer, but because they can't afford the inexperience," said Smith.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.