Buffalo Wild Wings is running a promotion to go with the NCAA men’s basketball tournament that gives members of its mobile loyalty program a chance to win bonus points based on team wins. To enter the contest, customers check into a participating restaurant on the Blazin’ Rewards app to spin a virtual wheel and build a roster of eight teams, per a statement.
Blazin’ Rewards members receive bonus points every time their teams win, and prizes increase with each round of the championship. Participating restaurants in host cities for the tournament, which this year include Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Nashville, Pittsburgh and San Diego, also will give away tickets to fans.
The restaurant chain, which has more than 1,200 locations in 10 countries, will have a B-Dubs Sports Lounge near the Alamodome in San Antonio, TX, during the Final Four festivities, March 30 to April 2. Also, fans who buy a $30 March Madness gift card in a restaurant or online will get a $5 e-gift card. At a kiosk in the sports lounges, customers can answer a series of questions to find the sauce that best matches their taste.
Buffalo Wild Wings has associated its brand with sports almost since the company’s founding in the early 1980s and now seeks to appeal to a younger generation of fans who are more likely to watch sports on mobile devices and have shunned eating at casual sit-down chains. Former CEO Sally Smith last year blamed millennials for wanting to eat at home, ordering food for delivery and eating at fast-casual restaurants (such as Chipotle or Panera Bread) for its declining sales. Arby's Restaurant Group last month completed a $2.9 billion acquisition of Buffalo Wild Wings and renamed itself Inspire Brands.Buffalo Wild Wings estimated a same-store sales decline of 1.6%-1.7% for 2017 fiscal year, per Nation’s Restaurant News.
Like pizza chain Papa John’s, Buffalo Wild Wings may have suffered as the National Football League lost viewers among disaffected fans who had been turned off by the politicization of the game. President Donald Trump urged people to boycott games in response to player protests of the national anthem. But the reasons for the ratings slump among millennials may be the result of a shortened attention span, per consulting firm McKinsey. NFL ratings among millennials last year slumped 9%, but the percentage of millennials watching the NFL actually increased from the prior season from 65% to 67% among the entire group. The ratings decline was caused by an 8% drop in the number of games watched and a 6% decrease in the minutes watched per game, according to McKinsey's analysis of Nielsen ratings data.
NCAA basketball offers a welcome reprieve for sports fans who want to get back to enjoying games, and that's an important consideration as Buffalo Wild Wings launches its March Madness promotion with a strong mobile component. The chain has two apps, B-Dubs for delivery orders and Blazin’ Rewards for repeat customers, to be in tune with smartphone users. Before the company was acquired, it started testing a smaller-format store called B-Dubs Express that is focused on takeout and delivery services that are more likely to appeal to millennials. Now that it’s under new owners that helped to revive the Arby's fast food chain, the struggling casual dining brand can focus on other ways appealing to a mobile-savvy customer group.