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National Restaurant Association - Buffalo Wild Wings’ beverage odyssey

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Buffalo Wild Wings’ beverage odyssey

At the 2015 National Restaurant Association Hotel-Motel Show, Buffalo Wild Wings president and CEO Sally Smith delivered the BAR keynote speech to a crowd of alcohol industry executives and operators. Since its 1982 beginnings as a single restaurant in Ohio, Buffalo Wild Wings has burgeoned to more than 1,100 locations in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Philippines, and beer is the third best-selling menu item, trailing only traditional and boneless wings. While recapping the $3.2 billion chain’s evolution, Smith explained systems she and her colleagues employ to make bar program decisions.

Staying on top of trends and giving guests new reasons to come back is critical; therefore, every viable program idea must be carefully tested and planned. Here’s an overview of the six-stage continuous development process used by the Buffalo Wild Wings beverage team:  

  1. Information and insights. To identify opportunities, shed light on trends and other data. Do your research.
  2. Ideation. Use a variety of sources to capitalize on emerging trends. Suppliers and franchisees can contribute great suggestions regarding what will work in restaurant locations.
  3. Development. Teams work together to assess factors like sourcing, pricing and positioning.
  4. Validation. Determine whether the idea will resonate with guests and if it can be executed in every restaurant. A panel of 10,000 guests provides food, advertising and technology feedback. After bartenders and operators also serve up input, a field test ensues.
  5. Refinement. The beverage team earns buy-in from other teams by looking at scalability, among other considerations. In this phase, an idea is approved.
  6. Communication. Messaging is developed for guest marketing and team member training materials, including videos. Equip team members on the ground so they can consistently deliver positive guest experiences. 

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