Popeye’s and McDonald’s Both Want a Piece of Buffalo Wild Wings' Business

The latest restaurant chain to get in on the chicken wing craze is Popeye's and its new Bayou Buffalo Wicked Chicken. Will these wings flop like Mighty Wings or soar like Buffalo Wild Wings?

Jan 7, 2014 at 3:42PM

These days, every quick-service restaurant is looking to get in on the chicken wing craze. After all, look what chicken wings did for Buffalo Wild Wings (NASDAQ:BWLD)(NASDAQ:BWLD) and its shareholders: shares are up more than 87% in the past year. Shares of Popeye's Louisiana Kitchen parent AFC Enterprises (NASDAQ:PLKI) are up slightly more than 37%, while shares of McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) have lagged the market and are up only 7% in the past year.

Could chicken wings be the menu innovation to get shares of AFC Enterprises and McDonald's to fly like Buffalo Wild Wings?

Foray into wings not going as well as expected
McDonald's Mighty Wings promotion has not taken off like the company expected. Matter of fact, Mighty Wings ended up being a dud. A big reason for this was that McDonald's priced itself out of the market. The prices for Mighty Wings were on par with prices at Buffalo Wild Wings--the wings were priced at three for $3.69, five for $5.59, and 10 for $9.69. Consumers were just not willing to pay Buffalo Wild Wings prices at McDonald's. The other problem with Mighty Wings was that many customers found them to be too spicy.

The end result is that McDonald's and its franchisees are sitting on 10 million pounds of unsold wings. To sell its remaining supply of Mighty Wings, McDonald's is going back to the original offer of three for $2.99. If McDonald's wants to be in the chicken wing business, it looks like it needs to go back to the drawing board (or in this case the kitchen) and cook up a new batch of wings for its menus.

Not looking to be left out of the chicken wing market
Considering that Popeye's is known for its fried chicken, it makes sense for the chain to have wings on its menus; but now Popeye's is looking to "out buffalo" the buffalo wing with its new Bayou Buffalo Wicked Chicken. According to Popeye's, "[P]acking flavor on flavor from the inside out, Popeye's starts with the Louisiana-style buffalo marinade, then the thin strips of tender, juicy, all white meat are sauced and tossed in our Bayou Buffalo sauce and fried up fresh. Bayou Buffalo Wicked Chicken is served with Popeye's new Bleu Cheese Dipping Sauce, regular fries, and a biscuit for only $3.99 through [Jan.] 26."

Buffalo Wicked Chicken is a smart move by Popeye's and its timing is perfect with the NFL football playoffs. This promotion should also help keep same-store sales running strong--in the third quarter, same-store sales rose an impressive 5.1% across all global locations. Popeye's continues to grow as well, with the chain opening 33 net new locations in the quarter.

It's all about the wings
When us Fools think of wings, the first restaurant that comes to mind is Buffalo Wild Wings. The chain was built around chicken wings, but Buffalo Wild Wings, or B-Dubs, is also known for its burgers, sandwiches, appetizers, and plenty of beer and alcohol to watch your favorite sporting events. Each location has more than 30 flat screens to stay on top of the action.

Buffalo Wild Wings has really focused on its drinks menu to get customers in the door. The latest move is that the chain is swapping Coca-Cola products for PepsiCo, which gives Buffalo Wild Wings the chance to offer products from PepsiCo's snack division like Doritos-flavored chicken wings. B-Dubs has also partnered with Craft Brew Alliance and has rolled out its own draft beer called Game Changer. This focus has certainly worked, as the chain serves more draft beer than any other chain restaurant in the U.S.

Foolish assessment
McDonald's has the lowest P/E multiple at 17 and has the highest dividend yield at 3.3%. AFC Enterprises is next and is trading at 25 times earnings. Buffalo Wild Wings is considered a growth stock and has the highest multiple, trading at 40 times earnings. For value investors, McDonald's looks to be the best bet with its low P/E and high dividend yield.

Buffalo Wild Wings has plenty of growth ahead, but its shares will be more volatile due to its high P/E. AFC Enterprises looks to be the sleeper among the three, but that might be about to change as Popeye's has been posting impressive same-store-sales numbers. It's certainly a stock to watch. 

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Mark Yagalla has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Buffalo Wild Wings and McDonald's. The Motley Fool owns shares of Buffalo Wild Wings and McDonald's. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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