Is Buffalo Wild Wings on the Verge of a Same-Store Sales Recovery for the Third Quarter?

The sport-themed casual dining chain, Buffalo Wild Wings has repeatedly landed in our top 10 Most Loved Brand list, a ranking determined from positive consumer sentiment data pulled from the Restaurant Social Media Index.

In the most recent ranking for the Q2 of this year, BWW lands at no.4 with an impressive increase from the first quarter.

But in the first quarter of the year, the brand announced that for the first time in six years it experienced a decline in same-store sales. Specifically, the same-store sales declined by 1.7% at corporate-owned locations and 2.4% at franchised restaurants– compared to the same period the year prior. Then in the second quarter, the brand saw another decrease- with a 2.1% drop in company-owned restaurants and 2.6% in franchised stores.

Buffalo Wild Wings Same Store Sales

Previously, when we have seen a major increase in the sentiment score, it will take 30-90 days for this to reflect on the brand’s sales. So although, BWW just had a rough quarter it looks like they are on the road to bouncing back. According to the Restaurant Social Media Index (RSMI,) the brand had a 5.44 increase in sentiment score from Q1 to Q2.

Buffalo Wild Wings RSMI Sentiment Scores

“The RSMI has evolved into a leading indicator or predictive social engine for foodservice brands. Measuring sentiment has been one of the most effective ways to determine when, a brand’s sales could decline. The impact on brands is often 30-90 days after we see sentiment dips or spikes that are significant in the 2-4 point plus range in a month,” said Paul Barron, founder of the RSMI.

Again, this isn’t the first time Foodable Labs have predicted either a sales spike or decrease. As for Chipotle’s food crisis, most analysts predicted a significant sales decrease. And even with the brand’s recent aggressive effort to win back customers, the sluggish movement in its sentiment score means the restaurant has a long way to go before they recover to the sales before the E. coli outbreak.

“As we analyze so much consumer info, it gives us an effective psychographic picture of the brands impact on consumers dining habits. What brands often forget is the power of social word of mouth when it comes to sentiment. Live by the sword and die by the sword as was the case in the E. coli incident with Chipotle, the slide began quickly and where most analysts are seeing a 6-8 month turn around, here at Foodable Labs we see this impact stretching out to as long as 18 months.”

Tactics of Recovery

Although we anticipate that the brand will see an improvement in sales within the next year. BWW has a hard-hitting plan of action to reverse this decline.

Besides opening new stores across the country, the company has introduced the Fast Break Lunch guarantee. This program launched a few weeks ago and offers customers free lunch if the food is not ready in 15 minutes.

Eat 'em anywhere. #takeout

A photo posted by Buffalo Wild Wings (@bwwings) on

Another focus by the brand is on its takeout and delivery with its digital ordering platform. Takeout orders have increased by 25%, 16% of which were made through the restaurant’s online platform. The restaurant also is testing an expansion of its Wing Tuesday promo at 80 of their stores, where the wing prices have been cut in half.

BWW’s president, Sally Smith mentioned that the sales decrease was partially attributed to the fact that less games were played in Chicago, a particularly strong market for the chain. Luckily, the football season is right around the corner.

Not to mention, activist investor Marcato Capital Management LP has a new position in the company. Smith said the company will work with the investor and plans to share more cash with BWW’s shareholders.

“We do know that we’ve entered into a stage where we generate a lot of cash,” said Smith in the company’s earning call last week. “In addition to opening restaurants, we have an ability to return value to shareholders, either through stock repurchases or dividends.”

This was particularly enticing to investors. Since July 22, the brand has seen a gradual increase on the NASDAQ stock exchange.

Fostering Positive Interactions on Social

So how does the brand consistently land on the top 10 Most Loved Brand list with a high sentiment score?

The brand stays true to its sport-focus and incorporates this theme effectively on social.

“Our Alive Events social videos have given fans special access to some of their favorite sports-and-entertainment personalities. We’ve shared exclusive interviews with the head football coaches of the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl game, with questions sourced from our Twitter followers. And we’ve had sports icons take over our Twitter feed to answer questions from fans,” said Heather Leiferman, Director of PR at BWW.

The restaurant also uses social to get feedback about their menu and promotions, while making their customers feel included in brand decisions.

“We continuously listen and respond to Guest feedback in social. While social feedback is largely anecdotal, we do look for insights about our product offerings and broader food trends,” said Leiferman. “We leveraged Twitter last year for our #BWWSauceVote – asking fans which of our past limited-time B-Dubs Sauce Lab flavors should be brought out of retirement. Bourbon Honey Mustard and our reformulated Blazin’ with ghost pepper were fan favorites that have been added to our menu permanently.”

Time will only tell if Buffalo Wild Wings 3rd quarter results show improvement. But their recent increase in positive sentiment is an indicator that the brand may be on the verge of a sales recovery.