Buffalo Wings & Rings said the new design was optimized with the dine-in customer in mind, but amps up services for those tapping off-premises options. There are “valet points” at each store—or essentially curbside pickup markers, where customers can pull up and have an employee bring the food out. A makeshift coronavirus lifeline turned permanent and deliberate.
“We’re evolving with the ever-changing needs of the consumer. Especially with COVID-19 people are itching to gather with friends and family, and after this is all over we’re excited to have the space to connect people together through our brand,” Matheson said.
The company expects to accompany these changes with new wing flavors and sandwiches in the coming months, as well as a digital platform that enables guests to check-out from their table and call servers with a push of a button.
A second location of the new design is planned for 2021.
Buffalo Wings & Rings, which has roughly 60 U.S. units, saw its sales drop close to 90 percent during peak in mid-March, Masadeh told FSR earlier. In addition to the general setbacks, COVID-19 arrived right before Buffalo Wings & Rings highest-volume seasons—March Madness. Sales climbed into April as the brand boosted off-premises take north of 50 percent.
Ahead of the pandemic, the chain was working through a fourth-generation design called “The Huddle.” Fittingly, it was designed to capture the consumer trend toward convenience and off-premises, with the main feature being a canopy where customers or third-party drivers could pick up food.
COVID-19 could unlock innovation for wing chains of all sizes, which have thrived on the counter-service side. Wingstop, for instance, posted its stronger quarter since its IPO in 2015, both in terms of sales and profit, in Q2. Quarter-to-date in July, same-store sales rose 28.7 percent, lapping double-digit growth in the prior-year quarter.
Buffalo Wild Wings opened a to-go-only concept in Atlanta back in March—a 1,800-square-foot restaurant will have a walk-up counter, digital menu boards, and a small seating area with TVs to entertain customers while they wait for their order. It also included a heated locker for order-ahead purchases. At that point, Buffalo Wild Wings COO John Bowie said, in the past six weeks, the brand grew its off-premises business by more than 140 percent.