Taking the stage at the Buffalo Wild Wings Worldwide Convention in Orlando, Florida, Lyle Tick laid out the vision for Buffalo Wild Wings to become THE Great American Sports Bar.
The first step in that process, Lyle told the more than 1,800 attendees, is returning the brand to its essence.
“When you go back to your essence, it doesn’t mean just going back and doing things the exact same way,” said Lyle. “It means making sure that you understand who you are and that you’re led by purpose.”
“I stand with you on the precipice of what I view as the single biggest change program in this brand’s history.” Lyle Tick, President, Buffalo Wild Wings
“Getting back to our purpose — to inspire legendary experiences between friends — will allow us to rediscover the energy at the heart of Buffalo Wild Wings and deliver it in a way that’s very relevant today.”
To get an understanding of the heart and soul of the brand, Lyle invited on stage Scott Lowery, who co-founded Buffalo Wild Wings more than 35 years ago.
“I’m really excited by what I’m hearing and seeing,” Scott said.
“I’m glad to see the concepts and philosophies that we instilled are still in the restaurants as Buffalo Wild Wings moves forward.”
Lyle and the Buffalo Wild Wings team have made significant progress over the last year setting a new strategic direction and beginning the process of reigniting the brand. Lyle highlighted several early accomplishments, including: creating a new restaurant design; introducing a landmark partnership with DraftKings, a $5 Game Day Menu, a new advertising campaign titled “Escape to Football”, and a refreshed brand logo; and growing its Blazin’ Rewards loyalty program to more than 7 million users.
Lyle also unveiled the newly-formed Buffalo Wild Wings Foundation, which will allow the brand to make an even larger impact in the communities its serves.
Looking at 2019 and beyond, there is much more work underway for Buffalo Wild Wings — from introducing new menu items and advertising, to creating greater in-restaurant experiences and brand partnerships. “Our thumbprint will be left on this brand for future generations to look at, for future generations to build upon,” Lyle said. “It is rewarding work. It takes perseverance. It takes commitment. Above all, what it takes is an unequivocal belief in the possibility that we are creating together.”
“You don’t get a lot of those opportunities. This is that moment. The story that we write, over the course of this year and over the course of the next few years, will be a seminal chapter. Your thumb print will be on there.” Lyle Tick, President, Buffalo Wild Wings
“Whether part of our story is about revitalizing the brand in the U.S. and taking it to new heights, or unlocking the potential of this brand globally, the course of this year and the next couple of years is seminal in the history of this brand. I love that kind of stuff. That kind of stuff gets me energized.”
Buffalo Wild Wings Chief Operating Officer, John Bowie
John Bowie’s approach to successful restaurant operations was emphasized through two priorities: people and performance.
“The moment of truth in our business happens in our restaurants one guest at a time. We’re in the people business, it’s everything we do and people drive performance,” John said.
John explained that the satisfaction of Buffalo Wild Wings guests begins with the satisfaction of the restaurant team members. “That’s why we have to focus on building the right team,” he said.
“It’s our team members that drive our purpose, and that’s why people are the most fundamental and important piece of our business.”
Building the right team, John said, begins with first identifying what the perfect candidate profile for Buffalo Wild Wings, and it continues on in how that person is integrating into the team. And that’s why Buffalo Wild Wings is adopting a new initiative: Brand Champ.
“Brand Champ is a cultural reset for Buffalo Wild Wings.” John Bowie, Chief Operating Officer, Buffalo Wild Wings
“Brand Champ is about us fundamentally changing the culture within our brand, teaching what it means to work here and what it means to be Buffalo Wild Wings. Our goal is to have every team member in every corner of this system through Brand Champ, understanding our expectations and what we want this brand to mean to guests across the country.”
Buffalo Wild Wings Chief Marketing Officer, Seth Freeman
In order for Buffalo Wild Wings to reclaim its spot as THE Great American Sports Bar, Seth Freeman said, the brand must first set the tone with culture.
“It’s why our purpose of inspiring legendary experiences is so important,” Seth Freeman, Chief Marketing Officer, Buffalo Wild Wings
“If you think about the cultural context of folks staying home more often, isolating themselves on their devices, the need to connect is paramount. When we bring people together, we can break that culture in a very relevant way.”
Shifting that mindset means reaching consumers who already know and love the brand, as well as making a meaningful connection with the fans who don’t.
“Any good brand out there that wants to grow has to recruit the next generation of consumers. At the same time, we’ve got to keep the conversation going with the people who have stories and memories at our sports bars,” Seth said.
To reach its core consumers, Seth explained that Buffalo Wild Wings would need to be strategic in its marketing, ensuring the right content is in the right place at the right time.
“We’ve changed our approach to focus on a much more targeted audience. We’re getting more efficient and more effective in our journey for media. And we’re leveraging the collective strength of our national and local media to align with the impact of sales throughout the year,” Seth said.
But getting consumers into the restaurant is only half the challenge. Seth explained that shifting a great experience to a legendary experience is more than just hosting a meetup between a group of friends. It’s about putting them in a game day environment where they can celebrate significant moments with other sports fans.
Striving for that energy is what compels Seth to overhaul the Buffalo Wild Wings experience. By driving ritual behavior around some of the year’s biggest sports moments, Seth believes the brand will create a culture of can’t miss excitement.
That’s exactly what he sees in opportunities around the upcoming March basketball tournament, a summer full of playoffs and baseball, football season and the only year-round sport, UFC.
“These sports represent a great opportunity for us, and it also capitalizes on a range of emotions that sports fans have throughout the season. One of our goals is to make sure that on every Saturday the UFC is on, that we’re the place to be.” Seth said.
He also detailed how Buffalo Wild Wings plans to deepen its engagement, positioning its loyalty program to drive acquisition and frequency.
“We’re excited about our loyalty platform. We’re going use it and leverage it in a more meaningful way,” Seth said.
“We want to make sure we’re reaching folks at the right time, with the right offer and customizing offers in a way that drives them to come back and repeat.”
Buffalo Wild Wings Vice President of Brand Menu and Culinary, Jamie Carawan
Jamie Carawan’s message was clear and concise —”Innovate or drown.”
In order to innovate, Jamie and his team spent the past 10 months dissecting hundreds of menus from top sports bars, gastropubs, tap rooms and sports lounges.
“We need to once again carve our own space, our own universe in this industry,” Jamie said. “A place that other people can’t get to, where they won’t be able to get to as fast as we can. We’ll kind of lean a little bit to these gastropubs, these tap rooms. This higher quality menu, more limited menu, more distinctive. And we’ll live in this. This is where we believe we win.”
“This is the most ambitious innovation project that Buffalo Wild Wings has ever embarked on.” Jamie Carawan, Vice President of Brand Menu and Culinary, Buffalo Wild Wings
Based on their research, Jamie and his team are preparing to launch a new and improved food & beverage menu, with an emphasis on better bar food and new classic cocktails. “This is the project that will propel our brand name for the next three to five years,” he said.
Inspire Brands Chief Executive Officer, Paul Brown
When Paul Brown took the stage, it marked roughly one year since Inspire Brands was founded. “I think 2018 will go down in history as a year that taught all of us how much can happen in a year,” Paul said.
As part of Inspire, Buffalo Wild Wings will have access to expanded resources and capabilities. And at the center of that relationship is Inspire’s commitment to delivering extraordinary support to its brands. “From me and everyone in our Support Centers, the only reason we exist, the only reason we have a job, is to support you,” Paul said. “We are here to deliver support you and help you deliver great experiences to our guests.”