Shares of Buffalo Wild Wings (NASDAQ:BWLD) are as hot as the chain's Blazin' sauce right now, up 16% since the company announced solid third-quarter results. But after each quarterly report, investors should still pay close attention to what Buffalo Wild Wings management says on its subsequent conference calls. Here are five interesting nuggets they offered during their most recent call:
Wing prices just skyrocketed
The traditional wing market has risen significantly since July, resulting in our cost of chicken wings for the first two months of the fourth quarter to average about $1.88 per pound. This compares to last year's average cost for the fourth quarter of $1.64. The current market rate for wings is $1.98 per pound. -- Buffalo Wild Wings CFO Mary Twinem (all quotes courtesy of Seeking Alpha)
For perspective, that current market rate represents a huge 30% sequential jump from Buffalo Wild Wings' third-quarter average price of $1.50 per pound. Further, management elaborated that those prices are expected to stay high for the rest of this year, and potentially extend into the beginning of 2015. Considering traditional wings made up 21% of total restaurant sales in Q3, it's no surprise management also warned cost of sales could approach 31% in Q4, up sequentially from 29.1%.
...which means they're (carefully) raising menu prices
Given the trends and wing prices and known raises in certain minimum wage rates, we are increasing menu prices in average of 3% at the end of November. The effect of menu priced benefit from this and other increases and adjustments taken in the last 12 months is 3.4% for the fourth quarter. -- Mary Twinem
Fair enough. As costs increase, it seems reasonable that menu prices should also go up to negate those higher costs. But this also begs the question, does Buffalo Wild Wings have the pricing power to do so without sacrificing growth in same-store sales?
COO James Schmidt thinks so. Citing strong same-store sales and a high guest loyalty index, Schmidt elaborated during the call that, "We give a lot of thought and consideration to a price increase before we take it. [...] So we do think that we can support the price increase."
B-Dubs is acquiring more than just new restaurant concepts
As part of our capital strategy, we acquired three Buffalo Wild Wings franchise restaurants in Arizona during the third quarter. In October, we completed the acquisition of 10 franchise locations in Florida. Another acquisition of six units is expected to close in the fourth quarter.-- Buffalo Wild Wings CEO Sally Smith
Last quarter, Buffalo Wild Wings not only said it added to its minority stake in fast-casual concept PizzaRev, but also reminded investors it's still considering other investment candidates. Sure enough, less than a month later, it announced the aquisition of a majority stake in up-and-coming street taco specialist Rusty Taco, and continues to search for other promising brands.
So why are they simultaneously spending money on buying back franchises? Franchising is a great way for restaurant chains like Buffalo Wild Wings to quickly grow their brands with minimal risks or capital outlay. However, company-owned restaurants are not only more profitable for Buffalo Wild Wings, but also allow it to more quickly and expansively roll out corporate initiatives, such as "Guest Experience Captains" and new technology (more on that below).
You'll have multiple new ways to pay in 2015
Our tests of the tablet menu order and server hand-held devices are under way. Our goal is to fully implement tablet ordering in 2015 and to begin the roll out of server handhelds next year as well. We're in discussions with multiple partners regarding payment methods including mobile pay and we'll begin testing several options in the first half of 2015. -- Sally Smith
Buffalo Wild Wings hinted at this point last quarter, but now we have a confirmed end-of-2015 timeline. And that makes perfect sense considering the company's plans to have its new tablets rolled out to 75% of all locations by the end of this year. Equally interesting, however, are the new details on server-based handhelds and mobile payments, which should serve to bolster efficiency and, in turn, customer satisfaction. We'll be watching for more details on these initiatives in the coming quarters.
These initiatives come with lucrative ulterior motives
Captains help promote the new technology in our restaurants, which we believe encourages guests to stay longer, visit more frequently and order more. [...] Our new Guest Experience technology continues to be installed at more locations, adding entertainment options and empowering our guests, creates their own ultimate social experience for sports fans. -- Sally Smith
Not only is Buffalo Wild Wings adding new tablets, ordering systems, server handhelds, and mobile payments, but it also expects to complete the roll-out of higher-paid Guest Experience Captains at company-owned locations by the end of this year.
But it's not doing so out of the goodness of its heart -- or at least not entirely. This isn't exactly a big surprise considering B-Dubs is, after all, a publicly traded company with investors to consider. But the end goal of all these experience-boosting initiatives is to keep you in your seat for longer periods of time, ordering more food and higher margin alcohol products long after you arrive.
And when you leave, Buffalo Wild Wings wants you to want to keep coming back for more. According to Smith, the company's Captains and new technology promise to do exactly that.