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Buffalo Wild Wings offers 'football prenup' in a play designed to score customers

Thomas Barrabi

With the busy fall football season just days away, Buffalo Wild Wings is dabbling in some light-hearted couples therapy in a bid to lure customers to its restaurants to watch the big game.

The national sports bar chain unveiled its “football prenup” this week, an interactive document that allows customers to set terms on a game viewing schedule to avoid arguments during the season. The campaign launched alongside Buffalo Wild Wings’ “Football Game Day Menu,” which offers fans discounted items such as $5 bar food and pitchers of beer starting today -- just in time for college TV games featuring top-ranked Clemson, #12 ranked Texas A&M and #14 Utah.

Football season is a critical period for Buffalo Wild Wings, which has struggled in recent years amid high chicken prices and declining customer traffic. To attract fans bombarded by other entertainment and food options, brands like Buffalo Wild Wings need to get creative, according to Matt Balvanz, senior vice president of analytics at Navigate, a marketing research firm.

“Attendance across all major sports is dropping because there’s a lot of benefit to staying at home,” Balvanz told FOX Business. “You can create an at-home atmosphere where there’s no line to the restroom and now you can gamble on your cellphone and TVs are as inexpensive as ever. You have to think outside of the box to get people to show up.”

Buffalo Wild Wings operates more than 1,000 restaurants across the U.S. under the umbrella of Inspire Brands, the parent company of Arby’s and Sonic Drive-In. Inspire Brands was founded by Roark Capital, the private equity firm that acquired Buffalo Wild Wings for $2.9 billion in February 2018.

The chain’s same-store sales declined roughly 1.6 percent in fiscal 2017, the final year before its acquisition. In a May 2017 letter to shareholders, former Buffalo Wild Wings CEO Sally Smith blamed weak customer traffic and television viewership trends, noting that “millennial consumers are more attracted than their elders to cooking at home.”

With an interactive campaign like the “football prenup” -- which features well known Fox rules analyst Mike Pereira -- Buffalo Wild Wings can uniquely capture the attention of millennials.

“They’re all about the experience as opposed to this ingrained love of sports,” Balvanz added. "They’re not willing to just sit and watch a three-hour broadcast the same old way anymore. You have to appeal to them, create an experience, stay fresh and stand out to get people out of their houses.”

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Fresh marketing campaigns and menu items are just some of the ways Buffalo Wild Wings has attempted to jumpstart sales. The company confirmed to FOX Business in August 2018 that it was “actively exploring opportunities” to integrate sports betting at its restaurants, months after the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a longstanding federal ban on the activity.

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