Buffalo Wild Wings (NASDAQ:BWLD) may need a Hail Mary pass from the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons this weekend if it wants to score a touchdown with investors. The chicken-wings-and-beer joint has seen its performance clipped after recording three straight quarters of falling same-store sales, but the Super Bowl this Sunday could move the ball downfield for the casual-dining chain, if fans flock to its restaurants.
According to the National Chicken Council, Americans are set to consume 1.33 billion chicken wings over Saturday and Sunday, a 2% or 30-million-wing increase from last year. A good portion of them will be eaten at one of Buffalo Wild Wings' 1,200 restaurants. Forbes quotes one B-Dubs franchisee as saying a typical restaurant will sell about 6,000 wings over the course of a weekend, but during Super Bowl weekend that figure more than doubles to 13,500 wings.
Analysts think the chain could still fumble the ball, however, as NFL viewership is down sharply this season. With about 10% of Buffalo Wild Wings' revenue coming from the Super Bowl, declining viewership could be a problem -- and one Maxim Group analyst says viewership of regular-season games was down 6.8%, while playoff games were off 5.8%.
Fans are spending less this year
The National Restaurant Federation says 189 million people are expected to tune into the game this weekend, about the same as last year, with about 12.4 million doing so at a bar or restaurant. What's worrisome, though, is they're going to spend only approximately $14.1 billion, or about 9% less than last year. However, of those who will be watching the game, 80% say they will be spending money on food and beverages.
Yet Buffalo Wild Wings isn't the only one looking for a Tom Brady-Matt Ryan matchup to improve its ground game. Wingstop (NASDAQ:WING) also sees a huge spike in sales during the biggest football game of the year, and this year it might actually benefit more than any other chicken joint, as the Atlanta-based chain may have a home-field advantage with the Falcons playing.
Wingstop has performed appreciably better than B-Dubs recently, and over the past year its stock is nearly 30% higher compared to its rival, whose shares have only managed to gain around 5%. Both, though, may be facing a tough, goal-line stand.
Still ruffling feathers
Chicken-wing prices remain elevated from the year-ago period, with analysts at BMO Capital Markets saying they're running almost 20% higher than last year. To complicate matters, Buffalo Wild Wings has penalized itself by raising prices several times over the past year, well ahead of its competition. There's a chance that other casual-dining chains with more varied menus might benefit from the lower pricing environment surrounding beef and chicken breasts.
B-Dubs management may also find itself distracted by the activist investor mounting a very public campaign against it. Marcato Capital Management recently issued a public letter to franchisees outlining its "roadmap for change and value creation." It previously said it was looking to seek out strategic alternatives, implement operational or management changes, improve the company's capital structure while optimizing its allocation, and reduce the number of company-owned stores.
With comparable-store sales falling and analysts seeing them going lower still, a menu that features inflated prices, a challenge to management by an activist investor, and a football league suffering from declining viewership, Buffalo Wild Wings looks more and more like an underdog heading into Super Bowl weekend -- and its stock could be the one that gets sacked.