With nine years of consecutive growth, and a record-breaking year in sales on tap for 2016, Buffalo Wings & Rings has cemented itself as a major player in the sports restaurant, casual dining arena.

The genesis of Buffalo Wings & Rings dates back to 1984, when a husband and wife team realized their dream of opening a sports restaurant focused on wings and homemade sauces in Cincinnati. A new ownership team took over in 2005 and, in the past 11 years, has grown from four to 70 franchises across the globe (50 domestically, 20 internationally).

“We are extremely selective with our franchisees, making sure that they believe in the same values that we believe in and that they will execute the brand to the way its intended to be,” says Nader Masadeh, CEO for the brand. “Our growth and annual AUV increase has been 13 percent over the last 10 years, which is pretty huge and unheard of in the industry.”

In 2016, the brand has opened two new franchises in Aberdeen, South Dakota, and Brownsville, Texas, and has signed an additional five franchise agreements for restaurants that will open up to five more locations before year’s end. Another eight to 10 locations are expected in 2017.

For this past quarter, Buffalo Wings & Rings saw its average unit sales increase 2.9 percent, with year-to-date system sales up 11.4 percent overall.

Today, the restaurant offers a full menu of specialty burgers, gyros, and salads to cater to its customers and provide options for the entire family to enjoy.

“We are serving a niche where we have no competition at all when compared to the casual dining segment, which has stayed stalled in the quality of the food and service,” says Philip Schram, Buffalo Wings & Rings’ chief development officer. “We have a chef-inspired menu that uses quality ingredients and unexpected options, like healthier alternatives, fresh never frozen. It’s no secret to our success: you just do the right things for the right reason and make sure we stay ahead of the consumer need.”

And of course, he adds, the company prides itself on its wings.

When it comes to sourcing, the company uses hormone-free and naturally fed chickens. Although they are fed antibiotics when born to kill any disease, Masadeh notes that by the time they are processed, it is all out of their systems as the feeding process follows a healthier feeding schedule.

It’s not lost on its executive team that Buffalo Wings & Rings sounds very close to competition like Buffalo Wild Wings and other wing-themed restaurants, but Masadeh says that it’s easy to see the differences.

“Sometimes people may look at the name and see they resemble each other and get confused, but when they actually come into our store and see the product and the differences, they clearly and quickly see the differences in the two brands,” he says. “We like to think we’re more of a sports restaurant and they are more of a sports bar to us.”

Although sporting events are on, he feels it’s a totally different guest experience. Buffalo Wings & Rings, he offers, is more family friendly, and focuses on the connection between guests, not just the game.

“We found an unmet need for consumers—those a little more mature with a wife and kids but who still want to enjoy watching a game,” Masadeh says. “We created this club level environment for those consumers who have graduated from the bar scene and now want to enjoy a similar type of experience but in an elevated environment. It’s a VIP fan experience customized to the level of the restaurant.”

By Keith Loria

Casual Dining, Chain Restaurants, Industry News, NextGen Casual