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Buffalo Wild Wings asks NFL, players to end lockout

The chain, which relies on football-watching diners, could lose sales if season is interrupted

Buffalo Wild Wings is teaming a wing giveaway with its “Save Our Season” petition in an effort to influence a solution to the National Football League lockout. The restaurant began the Facebook petition in March, but the clock is quickly running out for the NFL to resolve the dispute without potentially cancelling a whole season, which could harm Buffalo Wild Wings’ bottom line.

The lockout is a result of a labor dispute between star players including Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning, and the NFL. The league locked the players out of the game when labor talks broke down and the players’ union officially decertified.

Minneapolis-based Buffalo Wild Wings wrote an open letter to the NFL owners and players Friday to inform them of the petition, which has received more than 16,000 signatures to date. The letter stated that that if the two sides reach an agreement by July 20, when players are supposed to report to training camp, the chain will give six free wings to fans who signed the petition.

“We live and breathe all sports, and so do our guests,” said Kathy Benning, Buffalo Wild Wings’ executive vice president of marketing and brand development. “We keep hearing from our fans how much they want a football season, and we want them to know we’re happy to serve as their voice, but also to celebrate the return of football and their passion for the game.”

The casual-dining chain also deployed its Fantasy Football Blogger League to spread awareness of the offer and the “Save Our Season” petition.

“The professional football season is obviously important to our business,” Benning said. “However, we know that no matter the outcome of these talks, Buffalo Wild Wings will continue to be the gathering spot for all sports viewing. We’re hopeful that both sides of this dispute will come to an agreement and we will see professional football this fall.”

Restaurant fall-out

When the lockout began in March, two restaurant securities analysts wrote that the loss of traffic on pro-football Sundays in the fall and winter, as well as private-party business from groups hosting their fantasy-football draft parties, could take a serious bite out of sales.

Stephen Anderson of Miller Tabak & Co. estimated that Buffalo Wild Wings derives as much as 10 percent of sales from NFL games. David Tarantino of Robert W. Baird & Co. said cancelled weeks of an NFL season could negatively impact average weekly sales at the chain by 15 percent. Such a fall-off in sales could reduce average weekly earnings by 3 cents to 4 cents, he said.

The chain possibly could salvage its annual earnings targets despite reduced NFL-related sales, Tarantino added, largely because chicken wing prices remain favorable in 2011.

“While a lockout could reduce earnings per share temporarily, Buffalo Wild Wings’ recurring business model and profits would be unaffected, in our opinion,” Tarantino wrote. “For perspective, based on the aforementioned assumptions, we estimate that losing an entire NFL season, which seems unlikely, would hurt Buffalo Wild Wings’ cash flow by $12 million to $15 million, or less than 2 percent of its current enterprise value.”

Other restaurants are creating promotions tied to the lockout, including franchisees of “family sports pub” Beef ‘O’ Brady’s. Five of the chain’s locations began a promotion giving away free Bud Light, the official beer of the NFL, for as many minutes as there have been lockout days. With the labor stoppage in its 98th day, customers at the units — two in Mississippi and three in Florida — can drink free Bud Light for more than half an hour beginning at 4 p.m.

Buffalo Wild Wings operates or franchises more than 765 restaurants, including locations in 45 states and outside Toronto.

Contact Mark Brandau at [email protected].
Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_from_NRN

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