Industry News | July 29, 2011 | QSR Exclusive Brief

With NFL Lockout Over, Fast Feeders Breathe Easy

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Several restaurant concepts are breathing a sigh of relief this week after the NFL lockout, which began in March, was lifted Monday, ensuring that none of the 2011 season will be missed.

In a QSR story published shortly after the lockout went into affect, a number of restaurant executives shared their fear that the lockout would have a significant impact on business.

“The games give us recognition and an opportunity to say, ‘We’re here. We’re growing,’” Jack Butorac, president of Marco’s Pizza, said at the time. “If games are cancelled, we’ll have one less opportunity to share that message.”

Today, Butorac says, he’s thankful that opportunity will not be lost—nor will the potential sales big games can bring.

“If there’s a good game in a city, it has a huge affect,” he says. “It can influence sales on a daily basis of up to 20 percent.”

Still, Butorac says Marco’s customer base is broad enough that the company did not have a contingency plan in place should the lockout have continued into the season.

“If I was a wings concept alone, I’d probably have been a little bit more concerned,” Butorac says.

Wings concepts were indeed those most wary of the potential offsets an extended NFL lockout could bring. Buffalo Wild Wings had started a “Save Our Season” campaign, in which it asked customers to sign a petition and promised six free wings to signees if the lockout ended by July 20.

Even though the lockout ended July 25, Buffalo Wild Wings announced this week that it would give six free wings to each of the 45,000 people who signed the petition by July 20, totaling 270,000 free wings.

Andy Howard, chief marketing officer for another wings concept, Wingstop, said in the previous QSR story that the company would prepare for the worst

“We won’t sit around and take the loss,” Howard told QSR writer Daniel Smith. “If there’s no season, we’ll react and do things we wouldn’t normally do to generate sales and make up for the loss, even having some fun with the situation.”

Howard now admits that Wingstop, whose spokesman is former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman, didn’t have a firm back-up plan, but that it “probably would have done more discounting or deals than we normally would have.”

“We would have hated for the NFL strike to have hurt our momentum, so now that it looks like everything’s back to normal, we’re expecting a great season and a great third and fourth quarter, carrying into the first quarter of next year,” he says. “So it’s huge for us.”

Football, though, isn’t the only sport Wingstop identifies itself with; Howard says basketball also boosts the concept, and that it is popular in markets with successful NBA teams, such as the Dallas Mavericks, Miami Heat, and Los Angeles Lakers.

The problem with that? On July 1, the NBA enacted a lockout of its own.

“Here we go again,” Howard says. “It never ends.”

By Sam Oches