Buffalo Wild Wings’ new owner has unveiled the next generation of the concept, a tech-packed recast that plays up the brand’s claim of being the next best place to a sports stadium for watching games and hanging out with friends.
The redesign, Buffalo Wild Wing’s first since 2012, features an abundance of new technology, including customizable LED lighting that responds to patrons’ noise levels. The system can generate a light show of sorts when a roar from customers signals a big development in a game.
New audio-visual equipment includes an oversized viewing screen the chain likens to the Jumbotron displays used in sports arenas. TVs are also situated to give every guest in the restaurant a view. The monitors are the latest generation of display systems, with anti-glare features, centralized controls and the latest in resolution technology.
The brand’s new franchisor, Inspire Brands, notes an emphasis on flexibility within the new prototype, which measures 6,500 square feet and sports 280 seats A variety of table styles and shapes is provided, and guests will be encouraged to rearrange the seating to fit their party or their reason for being there.
Included in the format are two breakout areas: The Dugout, a lounge-like seating area, constructed largely of reclaimed wood from basketball courts. Located near the entranceway closest to the bar, the section serves as a holding area for people waiting for a table. The seating allows patrons to have a beer and watch games while they wait. It can also be converted into a premier viewing area for pay-to-view events.
A second breakout area, accessible only to guests aged 21 or older, sounds more like the tweaked-out living room of a sports or gaming fanatic. The MVP Room is outfitted with two 80-inch TV screens and a 60-inch monitor, plus a six-tap self-service beer dispensing system. Groups that book the room can also use any of four game systems: the latest system from Xbox and PlayStation, and classic setups from Nintendo and Super Nintendo. Inspire notes that the room can host video game contests, with the on-screen action broadcast to TVs throughout the restaurant.
The design will be customized to the host unit’s location. “The local experience will be different for every community, and that’s exactly what we want,” said Luke DeRouen, VP of brand experience and activation for Buffalo Wild Wings. “We now have an ideal spot to host local radio remotes and coaches shows, as well as an area for the local high school star to sign his letter of intent to play college ball.”
Also set apart from the main dining area, complete with its own entrance, is a room where patrons can pick up takeout orders. TVs enable patrons to watch games while they wait, or shop for sauces, which are displayed on a wall near the cashier’s station.
The bar is more prominently showcased in the new prototype than it was in older designs, according to the casual chain. It calls the serving area “the focal point,” and notes that beers, the concept’s signature adult beverage, will be dispensed from two lines of taps. Yet the positioning puts more of a spotlight on spirits, enabling the concept to accommodate customers who prefer cocktails over brews.
The main dining area is larger than the space allotted in older designs, according to Buffalo Wild Wings, and can be separated from the bar or opened to accommodate an overflow from that section of the interior, such as after the end of an exciting game.
Additional seating is available on a patio, a roofed area that can be closed off from the outside via garage-style rollup doors. The patio has its own two-sided bar, and patrons do not have to weave their way through the dining area to get there.
“We wanted to have a big variation of seating and allow guests to pull tables together as they please,” said Jim Cannon, SVP of design, architecture and construction for Inspire. “From the Dugout seating to the lounge area that’s in the patio, we’ve got booths, tables, chairs and even rails. Our guests now have choices they never had before.”
Inspire did not reveal the cost of the new prototype, or how the expense compares with the cost of the design it replaces.
The first two restaurants to sport the new design opened today, in New Caney, Texas, and Bowling Green, Ky. Two more are scheduled to follow, in Arden, N.C., and Fort Worth, Texas.
The new prototype is the most noticeable effort by Inspire since buying Buffalo Wild Wings for $2.9 billion earlier this year to revive the brand, which has lost patrons to competitors because of what some investors and franchisees have characterized as strategic misfires. A complete recast of the brand is expected to be underway by next fall.
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