Buffalo Wild Wings Looks to “Build Credibility” with New Cocktail Program

Dear Client:

Buffalo Wild Wings is a beer-dominated chain, but since Arby’s Restaurant Group purchased BWW last year for $3 billion, it has been refocusing its brand and part of that includes building up their cocktail program.

Beer accounts for just over 70% of the retailer’s beverage alcohol sales, with spirits/cocktails at 26% and wine at just 2%.

BWW beverage innovation manager Jason Murphy says that “as part of our whole brand refocusing, one thing we’re looking to provide is going back to basics with our spirits and cocktail program.” More specifically, they are “really try[ing] to get away from maybe overly fruity, sweet drinks you might see at a casual dining restaurant, [and] focus on things that are succeeding at…gastropubs,” he says.

As part of that strategy, they just introduced a new line of classic cocktails such as old fashioneds, Moscow mules and gin and tonics, “to start to build a bit of credibility with our cocktail program,” says Jason. “So one thing we’re trying to do is move our bar and employees behind the bar from being beer pourers to actual bartenders.”

Wine is getting premiumized at the concept, too. They’re “moving to a little bit better quality” brands, according to Jason. Wine may be a very small percentage of total sales, but he says that if a consumer orders wine at a BWW, then they “must have really wanted a glass of wine.” As a result, they’re going to offer more wine brands that are “recognizable” and maybe a bit higher end. Though, Jason concedes they’re “never going to be a wine bar.”

What about canned wines? They’ve “talked about it,” and everything is on the table, “from canned wines to RTD drinks…[we’re] open to wine on tap as well, as well as hard kombucha, cold brew coffee — any of those things we can put on tap,” to “optimize those bottom 5/6 handles” on their typical 30-handle tap wall. “Anything we can do that will provide incremental value to our guests, we’re going to look into it.”

“I think it’s accurate to say that we’ve already started to premiumize [wine and spirits] offerings, and we will continue to do so as we roll out our new food and beverage strategy over the next year,” says Jason.

If you’re curious about the retailer’s beer strategy, see BBD 05-02-2019 and BBD 05-03-2019.


In April, same-store sales were down 0.4% and traffic was down 3.5%, according to Black Box Intelligence data from TDn2K. But the overall outlook remains positive.

“April was a soft month for restaurants,” says vp of insights and knowledge at TDn2K Victor Fernandez, per NRN. “Putting these results in context helps us remain cautiously optimistic about the current state of the industry.”

For instance, this year’s April was negatively impacted by the Easter holiday. In fact, same-store sales reported a 2% decline during the week of Easter.

But it’s not all bad news. Guest check growth continues to accelerate. Even though visits are declining, consumers are spending more when they do go out.

“Barring an all-out trade war, the economy should continue growing solidly the rest of the year,” says Joel Naroff, Naroff Economic Advisors president and TDn2K economist, adding that weather also plays a role in restaurant visits/sales. “If we assume normal summer conditions, restaurant sales should accelerate.”


3 BADGE BEVERAGE CORP. HIRES NORTHEAST MARKET MANAGER. 3 Badge Beverage Corporation has hired John Cristal as northeast market manager for its wine division. He will oversee the company’s wine sales for New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, D.C. and Delaware. He joins 3 Badge from Vintage Epicure where he was an account manager.

COPPER & KINGS LAUNCHES TWO LUXURY LIQUEURS. Copper & Kings American Brandy Co. has launched two pure copper pot-distilled luxury cordials, Destillare Cafe and Destillare Chocolat. Both liqueurs have an aged brandy base, no added artificial colors or flavors, are non-chill filtered, sweetened with honey and bottled at 90 proof. Destillare Cafe is made with cold brew coffee, Madagascan vanilla beans, cardamom pods and coffee beans, while Destillare Chocolat has added Caribbean cocoa nibs. Both are available for approximately $35 a 750 ml.

MEMBER’S MARK RELEASES THREE NEW WINES. Sam’s Club’s private label Member’s Mark has released three new wines: sauvignon blanc (srp $7), malbec (srp $8) and zinfandel (srp $8). These wines are now available in 37 states.

Until tomorrow,

“If evolution really works, how come mothers only have two hands?” – Milton Berle

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