A recent report from Technomic suggested that full-service chains must revamp their images to maintain and regain share, due to increased competition from the fast-casual segment. Buffalo Wings & Rings is trying to do just that by keeping one foot planted firmly in each sector.

According to Technomic's "Future of FSR: Family & Casual Dining Consumer Report," family and traditional casual-dining restaurant visits are threatened by the fast-casual sector, which is perceived to offer better value and convenience while ranking competitively in terms of food quality. The foodservice research firm suggests full-service restaurants should focus on refreshed decor, updated menus, quality, and innovation.

"It doesn't surprise me to see the shift [toward fast casual]," says Nader Masadeh, CEO of Buffalo Wings & Rings, which has 45 units across the U.S. "For the casual-dining restaurants, it's pretty natural that you want to look at success, see what's going right for them, and try to copy what works."

To that end, Buffalo Wings & Rings is trying to set itself apart the myriad other sports bars and restaurants by emphasizing its family-friendly atmosphere but its quick-service kitchen and prices. 

In particular, Masadeh says the atmosphere at Buffalo Wings & Rings appeals more to a female and family audience. "The space has been redesigned to appeal to that demographic, as well," he explains. "That typical wings audience [of males in their twenties], once they graduate from that sports bar scene and they're married and have kids, they still want that experience—but they want it with their family."

Buffalo Wings & Rings had a major menu upgrade about four years ago, Nasadeh says, adding that the brand continuously evolves its menu every six to eight months with limited-time offers and other innovations that keep it relevant with consumers' palates and trends.

Prognosticating about the casual-dining sector over the next year, Nasadeh foresees the industry discovering how its technology investments over the last several years stand up. "The casual guys are relying on technology to attract people, and they're trying to reinvent the menus and redesign their spaces," he says. "Yet to be seen is what the impact of that is going to be on business [and] whether that's going to be a successful strategy."

By Sonya Chudgar

Casual Dining, Chain Restaurants, Industry News, NextGen Casual, Buffalo Wings & Rings