When asked about culinary challenges in his role, Riddle says, “Everything we serve—burgers and chicken respectively—come from live products. There's a lot of nuances around that and a lot of strategy around that—how we buy, what we buy, how we responsibly buy chicken and beef—and then rolling that out to our stores.” The key, he adds, is to have the excitement generated in Inspire Brands’ Atlanta hub roll out to customers nationwide. “We have to make sure that the things we do not only are fiscally responsible and environmentally responsible, but are culturally responsible for the members that we have in the front of house.”
Carawan came to Buffalo Wild Wings a little over a year ago after previously working for Twin Peaks Restaurants, Front Burner Restaurants, On The Border, and Brinker International, all based in Dallas.
“The toughest thing is when you start working on a brand like this, people continue to put the scale of the brand as paramount,” Carawan says. “Frankly, if you just focus on that scale, it will make you less creative. When you present something like a hand-breaded chicken tender, if someone's only focusing on a scale, they'll say, no way we can do this. So let's figure out what's good for one or two restaurants, and if it's good for one or two restaurants and we love it that much, let's figure out a way to make this happen regardless of scale.”
Buffalo Wild Wings’ goal, Carawan says, is to keep current guests happy while building on new innovation platforms, as well as bringing in more recruitment-style targets with fresh platforms and occasions. The chain is going to use this current, constant string of innovation to lure back some longtime followers. “I think it's apparent that the food that we're cranking out is way better than what we had in the past,” Carawan says.
He is excited about Buffalo Wild Wings’ All-American Cheeseburger and feels the brand has been over-leveraged with wings in general. By offering wing alternatives, like burgers and chicken sandwiches, Carawan hopes to keep customers coming back. It doesn’t always have to be a “wing night.”
“That builds a new occasion,” he says. “Maybe I get you in for lunch or late night or something else. You can smooth out these spikes we have in the year with March Madness and then NFL football. If we can have not so tall peaks and not so deep valleys, it makes a more viable business platform.”