Buffalo Wild Wings has built a nationwide chain of sports-themed restaurants in part by convincing customers to linger. Now it wants to speed things up.
The Minneapolis-based casual-dining operator unveiled on Monday its new “B-Dubs Fast Break Lunch” program, which has a specific menu and service strategy to get hurried customers in and out of the restaurant in less than 40 minutes.
That’s a big change for a chain whose ads over the years included the popular “Overtime” campaign, in which employees would press a button that notified referees of ways to extend the length of games — so customers could spend more time at its restaurants.
“This is different,” said Todd Kronebusch, vice president of food and beverage for Buffalo Wild Wings. “We want people to get in and out of our restaurants in under 40 minutes. We hope to build confidence in consumers that they can come in here, get great value and offerings to their liking and get out on time.”
The Fast Break Lunch will be available weekdays between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. in the U.S., and until 3 p.m. in Canada. It also gives the company a single, systemwide lunch program for the first time.
“This is a unified, systemwide lunch program,” Kronebusch said. “In the past, we didn’t have a consistent message. This brings all of our restaurants together.”
The program will be supported with a national network radio campaign and through social and digital media channels.
In recent months, casual-dining chains have been working to step up their lunch game amid intense fast-casual competition, and simply as a way to build business. Outback Steakhouse, owned by Bloomin’ Brands Inc., has been gradually adding the lunch daypart that it had traditionally avoided. Bloomin’ expects lunch could be a $1 billion opportunity for the brand.
Lunch is not a large daypart at Buffalo Wild Wings, which generally focuses on sporting events and dinner, where guests typically linger over their meals. Yet company research found that customers typically have only 30 minutes to 40 minutes for lunch. An offering of a sped-up version of the chain’s service could be an opportunity.
Buffalo Wild Wings’ lunch includes a menu featuring “Pick 2,” which has three price points and lets customers choose from one of seven entrées, including a Southwest Prime Rib Sandwich or a Chicken BLT, among others, along with a side such as soup, fries or salads.
Diners can choose add-ons including a side of wings or coleslaw, as well as snack or small portion sizes of boneless and traditional wings, along with fries.
The options are designed to let customers “create their own value,” Kronebusch said.
“It gives them all the choice,” he said. “They pick the food, they pick the price point. They choose to add entrées. When the program is executed well, it will provide the guest with an option of value, variety and speed of service.”
Lunch customers will be identified at the door. Hosts will ask customers as they enter whether they are in a hurry, and will mark their tables with a card saying “Fast Break Lunch,” which will indicate to servers that the customers are under time constraints. The server will then recommend the Fast Break Lunch menu.
The company is currently testing tabletop and order-taking technology that could speed service further. But Kronebusch noted that the company would also work in the initial few weeks of the new lunch program to understand the daypart and train staff on getting people out on time.
“We’re making sure, as we go through the first four to six weeks, that we’re building that history to help us execute stronger,” he said. “They understand that at the point we’re putting that card down, we make sure that team members know that we have a time-sensitive lunch.”