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Having reached the 1,000-unit milestone in January, Buffalo Wild Wings shared plans not just for continued domestic growth, but also through international expansion and possibly acquiring an interest in another growth vehicle, similar to last year’s minority investment in PizzaRev.

Buffalo Wild Wings expects to open 45 company-owned restaurants this year, with franchisees building another 40 locations. An international unit is expected to open in Dubai this year as well.

The company will open and operate two franchised locations of PizzaRev in Minneapolis in the first quarter and could finish 2014 with as many as six locations of the fast-casual pizza concept, Smith said. She added that the company might be looking for a few similar brands to add to the portfolio this year.

“Our criteria for that small emerging brand really haven’t changed,” Smith said. “We would like it to be in the fast-casual or perhaps casual-dining sector and the ability to have locations across the country — as a franchise-able, simple operation — anywhere from a couple units to maybe a dozen or more. … I do believe we should be able to add one or two small concepts before the end of the year.”

The brand opened 14 locations of the new “Stadia” prototype in 2013, and expects to open many this year. Smith said it was difficult to calculate a sales lift for the Stadia prototype because they are new builds and not remodels, but she did note that the new-look units averaged higher sales volumes than existing stores and have a very favorable sales mix of alcohol due to the prominence given to the bar area.

The chain also revealed during the earnings call that its new partnership with PepsiCo would result in more consumer packaged-goods opportunities in grocery stores, with a Buffalo Wild Wings-branded flavor of Ruffles set to debut in February.

“In addition,” Smith said, “we’ll plan marketing activities in 2014 utilizing NFL pass-through rights and music entertainment properties of these beverage partners.”

Twinem added that Buffalo Wild Wings would maintain its partnership with the NCAA and explore future sports-marketing opportunities on its nascent tablet and digital-marketing platforms.

“We’re always open to looking at things, whether it would be some sort of online sports platform, and these partnerships will help us provide some of that proprietary content within our restaurants,” Twinem said. “I think [it would give] guests just another reason to come into Buffalo Wild Wings, especially during lower sporting times.”

At the close of the fourth quarter, Buffalo Wild Wings operated 434 company-owned units and franchised another 559 locations in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Contact Mark Brandau at mark.brandau@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_from_NRN