In a sign of how far Buffalo Wild Wings has come under new ownership, the casual-dining chain is reviving its two-for-one Tuesday night wings deal, a traffic draw that proved a tripwire for the brand back in 2017.
As of July 16, the brand is once again offering a free bone-in wing on Tuesdays for each one that’s purchased by a dine-in customer.
The deal was once a highly effective draw for the chain on an otherwise slow night. It was discontinued two years ago, after wing prices failed to drop as expected for Buffalo Wild Wings following the usual spike during the NCAA college basketball playoffs, when demand soars. The higher costs cut significantly into margins, further antagonizing disgruntled shareholder Marcato Capital Management. The hedge fund’s managing partner, Mick McGuire, had demanded a change in control of Buffalo Wild Wings’ board and the dismissal of then-CEO Sally Smith. The company was publicly owned at the time.
Smith’s management team tried to temper the damage by switching from bone-in wings to the boneless variety for the buy one, get one offer. Boneless “wings” are actually cut from breast meat and are usually lower in cost.
But the switch led to confusion on the part of guests and Buffalo Wild Wings operators, in part because some stores were already offering a two-for-one deal for boneless wings on Thursday nights. Tuesday night margins might have been helped, but the top line weakened. The boneless wings promo was subsequently dropped.
Smith resigned on the morning of Buffalo Wild Wings’ shareholder meeting in June 2017. Weeks later, a deal was struck by Arby’s to buy Buffalo Wild Wings for $2.9 billion and make it the foundation of a new corporation called Inspire Brands. The company has since acquired the Sonic Drive-In chain.
The new owner has been quietly tweaking the brand since acquiring it. A new prototype featuring a Jumbotron-type viewing screen as well as areas for video gaming and esports was unveiled in December, the concept’s first redesign since 2012. New marketing was aired during this year’s NCAA playoffs, and the menu has been upgraded through product revamps.
Inspire has also been looking to leverage Buffalo Wild Wings’ size in purchasing for all of the holding company’s brands, according to publicly traded Diversified Restaurant Holdings. The chain extends to about 1,200 locations in the United States.
Diversified says Inspire has promised to reveal other aspects of the brand’s overhaul by the fall. The plan calls in part for relaunching a boneless wing.