Thursday's World Cup match between the U.S. and Germany could provide another boost to sports bar chain Buffalo Wild Wings (NASDAQ:BWLD), but it likely won't be as dramatic as the last game played against Portugal. A Sunday game when people were free to go out and enjoy a beer and wings is one thing; a midday game in the middle of the work week doesn't lend itself to the same frenzy.
Still, lunchtime business ought to be brisk at the beer and wings shop, and the U.S.' resurgent affinity for soccer should power the restaurant chain this quarter -- just as happened during the first quarter when the Winter Olympics and basketball's March Madness combined to push revenues 21% higher on a 6.6% jump in same-store sales at company-owned restaurants and 5% at franchised locations. It all generated a 73% increase in profits, so B-Dubs' second-quarter results will likely reflect the enhanced interest in futbol.
Although any dive bar can enjoy a business boost from the World Cup, Buffalo Wild Wings is uniquely positioned to do so because of its design, which focuses on 360-degree, big-screen sports viewing, and its new "stadia" model seeks to capture the thrill of being at an event itself. The chain's bottom line is likely to receive an additional kick in the grass because the cost of chicken wings is falling this year after its inexorable climb throughout 2013.
The country's fourth largest poultry producer, Sanderson Farms, reported that jumbo chicken wing prices tumbled 28% year over year in the second quarter as commodity feed costs plunged. Corn was down 34%, while the price it paid for soybean meal, its second biggest feed input, was up almost 9% from last year.
Yet B-Dubs shouldn't count on such favorable conditions lasting much longer. Sanderson says breeder flock sizes are smaller, which will constrain production capabilities, and because beef and pork prices are at record levels with no signs of abating their meteoric climb, demand for chicken remains high. Tyson Foods said it was expecting just a 2%-3% increase in overall domestic chicken production for 2014, but that's based on the weight of the birds, not their numbers. Chickens are being bred to be bigger, but there are fewer of them.
The restaurant chain changed the way it sold wings last year to deal with higher prices that were cutting into its profits. Previously it bought them from suppliers by the pound, then sold them in fixed numbers to its customers. The new method is weight-based, which Chief Executive Officer Sally Smith said gives its customers a more consistent amount of chicken in their order. That goes back to the bigger birds: Customers are getting fewer wings, but more meat per wing.
There obviously hasn't been any backlash from customers for what was essentially a price increase for them, perhaps a bigger one B-Dubs was able to make than had it simply raised menu prices. Then as wing prices tumbled, it provided the big kick to the higher profits we've seen.
The demand for chicken will easily absorb it all, however, and Tyson says there likely won't be any change in market conditions until the back half of 2015. As we head into the fall sports season, we have the start of the American football season and the World Series for baseball, and then go into winter with the Super Bowl, when demand for chicken will be at its peak.
Buffalo Wild Wings will be using the combination of current low prices and heightened sports interest to pad its profits now. Its second-quarter results last year were robust, but still likely beatable by a wide margin.
So B-Dubs will probably score big this quarter, and even if prices surge once more -- though there's no indication they will -- its menu change should protect it to handle the increase with ease. It's events like the World Cup that set the beer and wings joint apart from other restaurants, and investors can reap the rewards of its achieving that goal.