Matheson says the transition helps Wings and Rings gain more credit for its difference in food quality and service. The company does claim to be in the sports bar and restaurant space, but it views itself as “club level," with chef-inspired recipes and VIP service.
“Where the frustration point came in is that certain consumers who don't like the experience or the food at Buffalo Wild Wings were turned off to our experience,” Matheson says, “However, they were still diners in the category. So they still liked that kind of sports bar and restaurant space. They just had some assumptions about who we were as a brand. We just really wanted to make sure that we had the opportunity to be able to just signal that we are different.”
Matheson, who previously worked with consumer packaged goods, remembers that every time there was a name change on any brand, most guests will recognize everything is the same quality, but there’s typically about 20 percent that are skeptical and wonder why the name was changed. She acknowledges the challenge of changing a name after more than three decades of existence, but the industry veteran also knows it’s been done before. For instance, Domino’s Pizza switched to Domino’s, and Dunkin’ Donuts a few years ago transitioned to Dunkin’.
During the decision-making process, there were multiple options to choose from, including changing the whole name, Matheson says. But that type of shift posed too great a risk to consumer awareness, and that’s true for both physical and digital real estate.
“If you go too far, like if our current guest gets on the internet and they type in 'Buffalo Wings and Rings' or 'Wings and Rings,' how do we keep the search engines still recognizing it’s the same brand,” Matheson says, “It's something to think about. We actually even had to petition Facebook to even drop the ‘buffalo’ in our name and go with Wings and Rings without losing our whole page of fans.”
“It is a challenge,” she adds. “We didn't take it lightly, but like I said, we just evolved and we knocked any of the revolutionary names off the table. It was just too far from where we wanted to go. We felt like we had a really good, strong brand.”
Essentially everything outside of store signage is up to date with the new name and logo. Matheson estimates the process of remodeling every store to the new design will take roughly two years.
At the moment, Wings and Rings doesn’t plan to do any major marketing push around the name change other than communication through emails, social media, and potentially some YouTube videos that say “Wings and Rings has a better ring to it.”
“Short-term might we have a few challenges to overcome? Absolutely,” Matheson says. “Long-term, we think this is the right choice for us as a brand.”