When Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD) introduced its new "B-Dubs Fast Break" lunch menu in April, investors responded with a "meh." Shares of the wings, beer, and sports-centric restaurant chain hardly budged on the news, only to plunge the following week when B-Dubs missed quarterly expectations because of soaring wing costs.
To be fair, Buffalo Wild Wings also reiterated its guidance for full-year 2015 net earnings growth of 18%, indicating it expects the remainder of the year to more than make up for its slow start. For that, investors can thank a combination of expected declines in labor costs as a percentage of sales, as well as modified pricing agreements designed to narrow the price range Buffalo Wild Wings pays for its most popular menu item.
But I also think investors are underestimating the potential contribution of the Fast Break lunch menu. After all, despite its relative strength within the broader casual dining industry, Buffalo Wild Wings still bears an outsized reliance on the dinner daypart:
Of course, this isn't a big surprise given the chain's typical dine-in, full-service model. And to date, Buffalo Wild Wings has strived to keep diners in their chairs as long as possible to maximize each check using a variety of initiatives from table top tablets, Guest Experience Captains, and its new Stadia seating design.
However, keeping in mind the Happy Hour and Late Night time periods could be clumped into a similar category as B-Dubs' core Dinner daypart, at just 19% of its total the more segregated Lunch daypart arguably offers the most compelling incremental revenue opportunity.
Buffalo Wild Wings' research showed many lunch diners have less than 40 minutes from the time they enter the restaurant until the time they leave. As a result, these diners will be immediately identified as "Fast Break" customers by staff to ensure expedited service. Then they'll be able to choose from either a "Pick 2" option with three price points, which offers one of seven entrees and a side, or snack or small-sized portions of boneless and traditional wings with a side.
According to Buffalo Wild Wings CEO Sally Smith, "We conducted several tests and believe our pick two approach will help drive traffic during lunch, while optimizing speed in the kitchen to ensure guest satisfaction."
That's not to say it will be an easy task. The lunch daypart is currently dominated by both quick-service and fast-casual restaurant chains, whose respective concepts are already entrenched in consumers' minds as the most effective venues to find fast, affordable food for lunch. It will take time, then, for Buffalo Wild Wings to build rapport with consumers as a viable lunch alternative.
But if Buffalo Wild Wings can better compete with existing quick-service competitors in this lucrative daypart -- and keeping in mind the above 19% equates to roughly $302 million in trailing 12-month lunch revenue -- increasing the role of lunch could result in tens of millions of incremental recurring revenue dollars. Considering Buffalo Wild Wings came in just $12 million below analysts' lofty revenue expectations last quarter, I think you'll be hard pressed to find an investor willing to complain if B-Dubs Fast Break helps close that gap.