Given that 75% of its beverage sales are beer, it’s not surprise that many people view Buffalo Wild Wings as a beer destination. As CEO Sally Smith pointed out in her May 17 keynote at the NRA Show’s BAR event, brew is even part of the chain’s “Wings, Beer, Sports” tagline.
But as wine, spirits and cocktails have become more popular, Buffalo Wild Wings is stepping up its coverage of those categories. For instance, the Minneapolis-based company has expanded its wine selection and increased the size of its wine glasses, Smith said. It also just hired a mixologist as part of the beverage team.
Improving its cocktail game is of particular interest, noted Patrick Kirk, the chain’s director of beverage innovation. Half of the guests who consume beer at Buffalo Wild Wings consume cocktails as well. “We need to tap into that demand”
Consumers today really want to try new things and experiment, Kirk said, and a lot of that activity is now happening off-premise. “We like to be able to create new cocktails and offer new beers before you can buy them off-premise,” he said.
As for beer, Kirk admitted that while the craft brew trend is positive for the concept, it’s been challenging to manage all the choices available. Of the 25 to 30 taps at Buffalo Wild Wings locations, half are the national big brands, half are craft and local beers.
Serving beer properly and at the right temperature is crucial for a beer-centric concept. If something is wrong with a beer, Kirk said, “temperature will be 80% of the problem.”
Beer temperature is so important at every step, from when it comes off the delivery truck to when it’s in the cooler to when it’s going through the tap lines, Kirk said. “We have training materials and videos to help staff understand the pitfalls of serving beer at the wrong temperature.”
Founded in 1982, Buffalo Wild Wings now operates 1,100 locations. The chain looks for personality first when hiring staffers, Smith said; “you also have to know a little bit about sports.”
Success starts with offering the right products, Smith said, but bartenders and servers have to understand what they’re selling and know their guests. Making a personal connection with guests helps boost customer loyalty, she noted. “When you have a great server [and experience], you tend to go back to a place.”