November 28, 2017
Michael C. W. Murphy
253 W 47th St.
New York, NY 10036
Roark Capital Group
1180 Peachtree St NE, Suite 2500
Atlanta, GA 30309
Let me introduce myself to you. I’m the former Mayor (on Foursquare) of the Times Square branch of Buffalo Wild Wings, and a longtime exponent of the franchise. I felt compelled to write to you after reading that your owner, Roark Capital Group, has agreed to purchase my favorite chain of fast-casual chicken-wing restaurants for a paltry $2.4 billion. It’s amazing to me that anyone was even able to put a price on the pure spicy goodness of Buffalo Wild Wings’ Blazin’ wing sauce, but here we are.
It’s no secret that Buff (that’s how we, the acolytes of the franchise, refer to it) has had a rough year. It was ripped apart by activist investors over how the business has been run, to the point that Sally Smith, CEO for over two decades, announced plans to retire by the end of the year. On top of that, the price of chicken wings keeps on rising (paywall). So I wanted to offer some words of advice. Here’s how to ensure the greatest chain in America today continues to thrive for years to come:
Keep innovating in chicken. Introducing boneless chicken wings was a genius move. Some people don’t like to get their fingers messy when eating, and some people prefer white meat. Keep up the chicken-based innovation: Decisions like that will take you far.
More televisions. At the average Buffalo Wild Wings, there are still a few angles that I can turn my head and not see sports on a television screen. Please fix this. Perhaps you can turn the tabletops into TVs, or embed TV screens into the floors and ceilings. I cannot not be thinking about wings or the seventh round of the NFL college draft and how it affects the Carolina Panthers at all times.
Leave the sauces alone. What sets Buff apart is both the breadth of its sauce library, but also its quality. The hot sauce has both depth of flavor and heat, and eating the spicier Blazin’ and Wild sauces must be what it felt like to be Prometheus, staring the gods in the eyes as he stole fire for humans to enjoy. The Parmesan Garlic sauce is like eating a three-course meal at Olive Garden in one chicken wing. Leave these sauces as they are.
Don’t go hip. There seems to be a trend among US franchises to introduce “artisanal” and “craft” offerings to appeal to the youth of today. As a Millennial, let me tell you: If I wanted a pan-fired, rosemary-hibiscus infused chicken wing, I would go to some place in Brooklyn that only seven Instagram influencers have posted about. That is not why we attend the church of Buff. Much like Arby’s motto explains just what it has (“We have the meats“), Buffalo Wild Wings’ motto is equally clear: “Wings, Beer, Sports.” Keep it that way.
Bring the country together. The US is more divided now more than it possibly has ever been. Buffalo Wild Wings are in towns across the country, and have the potential to bring to people together over things that many can agree upon. In other words, it doesn’t matter your politics or beliefs; if you live somewhere, you want to see your team win, on as many screens as possible, and perhaps enjoy some excellent chicken wings and cold beverages in the process. You have the opportunity to bring Americans together over a relatively cheap dinner of absolutely phenomenal hot wings, oversized pints of good beer, and large televisions showing sports. Seize the moment.
Put a Cinnabon in each restaurant. Buffalo Wild Wings has great food, but the desserts leave a lot to be desired. Let’s get some Roark cross-brand synergy and have Cinnabons on the menu.
Create a mayorship. I would humbly submit, with years of experience of eating chicken wings and my previous mayorship, that you create a formal Mayor of Buffalo Wild Wings position. It can be a combination of community outreach to the chicken-wing community, and liaising with franchise owners so they can hear what the community is pining for (which is likely more wings and sports and beer). For precedent, look to Mayor McCheese at McDonald’s, who has successfully stewarded the hamburger brand (along with Ronald McDonald) for decades now.
Please heed my words. The brand is at a crossroads, and only you have the opportunity to help it thrive. Arby’s food was the butt of jokes for years, but having the meats has seen Arbys’ sales rise 4% under Roark’s stewardship. Now is the time to ensure that these wings soar.
Michael C. W. Murphy
Mayor emeritus, Buffalo Wild Wings Times Square
Full disclosure: I was the former Mayor of Buffalo Wild Wings Times Square, and I very much enjoy eating boneless wings Buffalo Wild Wings on Thursdays.