Now you'll be able to take Buffalo Wild Wings (NASDAQ:BWLD) with you wherever you go. On Friday, the chicken wings, beer, and sports restaurant operator launched its latest service for engaging with customers, B-Dubs Radio, a streaming radio station featuring contemporary hits and exclusive sports content.
Engaging customers across social media has long been a part of the restaurant industry's effort to create brand loyalty, but B-Dubs is going beyond just sending out tweets and encouraging likes by creating all-new opportunities for interaction.
The new digital radio station will be the first branded radio station on iHeartMedia's digital radio and music streaming service. The B-Dubs Radio launch marks yet another effort by the restaurant operator to reach beyond the four walls of its stadium-styled locations and immerse its customers in a game-day experience.
In the release announcing the launch, Buffalo Wild Wings said the station would feature custom sports programming and "exclusive vignettes," including weekly commentary from sportscaster and radio personality Dan Patrick. There would also be discussion of the week's top sports matchups and key rivalries, trivia, and more.
The company said it used a customer survey focus group, B-Dubs Huddle, to discern that sports and music are its customers' twin passions. Through participation in the group, customers provide feedback on advertising campaigns, new food and beverage offerings, promotions, and the restaurant experience.
Huddle groups were responsible for the introduction of tablets on the restaurants' tables, with 75% of tables to feature the devices by year's end; the launch of online gaming platform Game Break; the proprietary B-Dubs TV Network; and a soon-to-be unveiled member loyalty program.
It costs Buffalo Wild Wings approximately $12,000 to $15,000 per location to put the tablets into each of its more than 1,045 restaurants, and the balance of its information-technology infrastructure costs for this year is between $4 million and $6 million.
Tablets have become more than simple ordering devices, and many other restaurants are introducing them as well. Brinker International (NYSE:EAT) began introducing tablets at its Chili's restaurants last year, and both Applebee's and Olive Garden . While you place your initial order with a real, live server at Chili's, for example, refills and desserts are placed through the tablet. And like B-Dubs Game Break, they also feature interactive games.
Buffalo Wild Wings has found its footing again. In its third-quarter earnings report, the restaurant reported same-restaurant sales jumped 6% at company-owned restaurants and 5.7% at franchised locations. Tying into fantasy football leagues helped keep the sales momentum going through the quarter as restaurants hosted league drafting parties.
Overall revenue hit $373.5 million, up 18% over last year as net earnings increased almost 22% to $21.8 million. That followed strong results from rivals such as BJ's Restaurants, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, Denny's, and Ignite Restaurant Group.
Buffalo Wild Wings, though, is giving its customers a more immersive experience than what they can find at these other chains, and B-Dubs Radio represents a unique chance to further engage with diners in a way that is not just about its food.
Although the company must avoid becoming distracted by the gee-whiz technology and remain focused on delivering a superior in-restaurant experience, fantasy-style and competitive sports games at their restaurants and contemporary music and exclusive sports content are brand building offerings that enhance the customer experience.
B-Dubs is first and foremost still a restaurant, but allowing itself to also be a gamer or DJ gives it many more opportunities to connect with customers and make itself that much more vital to them. Will you tune in to B-Dubs radio? Sound off in the comments section below.
Follow Rich Duprey's coverage of all the restaurant industry's most important news and developments. He has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends BJ's Restaurants and Buffalo Wild Wings. The Motley Fool owns shares of Buffalo Wild Wings. 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.