Buffalo Wild Wings is getting back to its counter-service roots. This summer, two small-format restaurants, called B-Dubs Express, will open as pilot stores in the Minneapolis metro market.
Each location is around 2,500 square feet and seats 35—50 guests. The brand says the concept is inspired by a growing demand for off-premise service in casual dining. Mainly, takeout and at-home business. B-Dubs Express offers Buffalo Wild Wings’ traditional wings and flavors, but in a streamlined, counter-service format.
“With B-Dubs Express, we are excited to deliver on guest feedback and passionately serve up high-quality wings to satisfy cravings even faster,” says Todd Kronebusch, vice president of market development for Buffalo Wild Wings, in a statement. “These first two locations in Minnesota will provide a great opportunity for us to test an alternative format and gain learnings as we continue to look for ways to meet the changing needs of today’s consumers.”
Both pilot locations will be company owned. The first is set for Edina, Minnesota, while the second will spring up in Hopkins, Minnesota. The company says it is actively searching for future sites in multiple markets across the country.
Buffalo Wild Wings debuted with counter service before converting to its current model around 15 years ago. And unlike the brand’s investment in fast casual street taco chain R Taco, which has 18 locations with more in the pipeline, B-Dubs Express will look and feel like the signature brand.
Locations have TVs and serve beer and wine. The menu features wings—traditional and boneless—as well as chicken tenders, a chicken sandwich, burger, salad, Buffalo mac and cheese, and select sharables and sides. Additionally, Buffalo Wild Wings says delivery will be available via DoorDash.
The last few months have been tumultuous for Buffalo Wild Wings, whose shares have fallen nearly 7 percent year to date. The company’s June 2 shareholders meeting revealed that longtime CEO Sally Smith, the brand’s leader since 1996, would retire by the end of the year. Investors also voted to add Marcato Capital Management LP nominees Scott Bergren, the CEO of Pizza Hut, CIT Foods CEO Sam Rovit, and founder Mick McGuire to the board.
Marcato has long pushed Buffalo Wild Wings to sell swaths of locations to franchisees, somewhere in the conversation of 500 company-owned units sold by 2020.
During Buffalo Wild Wings’ first-quarter earnings call, Smith addressed the small-format plan. “We're under development for two company-owned small format Buffalo Wild Wings launching our pilot of a small format restaurant designed to address the growing consumer need for speed and convenience,” she said.
Buffalo Wild Wings’ same-store sales grew just 0.5 percent at company-owned stores year-over-year in the first quarter and 0.6 percent at franchised locations. Total revenue grew 5.2 percent to $534.8 million.