Roger David, chief executive of Cincinnati-based Buffalo Wings & Rings, knew his casual-dining chain was accomplishing its goals with a new prototype when a two-person focus group confirmed that the new design was appealing to women.
“What spoke volumes was when a lady walked into our remodeled store with a friend for lunch and said, ‘Oh my God, I could bring my family here,’” David said. “She’d had a picture in her mind of a stereotypical sports bar and restaurant, and it wasn’t this.”
The new features of the latest Buffalo Wings & Rings design are meant to make the brand more accessible to women and families, while maintaining the appeal of a sports bar, he said. That goal affected everything from décor and architecture, to new menu items like salads and wraps, or the “Crowd Control” menu meant to handle large groups like Little League teams.
“We’re a sports restaurant first and a sports bar second,” David said. “We’re expecting to see some non-wing items really start to take a more prominent role in our sales mix. … They’re all constructed with this sense of having a bold presence about them.”
At a newly built franchised location in Naperville, Ill., those new menu items are featured in a 6,500-square-foot space, which is about 1,000 square feet larger than the brand’s typical footprint.
Jason Corriveau, vice president of operations for The Hari Group, the Chicago-area franchisee of Buffalo Wings & Rings, said the open floor plan lets the energy from the bar travel to the dining room, but allows families to still have a separate experience from the typical sports bar. Yet the sports-watching atmosphere still has several high-end touches, like flat-screen TVs and beer taps at the tables.
Corriveau gave Nation’s Restaurant News a tour of the Naperville, Ill. prototype, which is one of two restaurants that were built to new specifications in December.
Hear more about the prototype from Corriveau; story continues below
David said the prototypes in Naperville and San Antonio, which also opened last month, were the first of 10 to 12 new-look restaurants Buffalo Wings & Rings hopes to open before the end of 2012.
The chain had 53 locations in 13 states at the end of 2011.