Evolution: Buffalo Wild Wings

Sally SmithSally Smith’s Industry Keynote address to the VIBE Conference on Thursday, March 10 is aptly titled, “College Bar to Sports Bar: A Spirited Evolution.” The President and CEO, Buffalo Wild Wings Inc., 2011 Chairman, National Restaurant Association, has quite a tale to tell, one from which all beverage industry pros can likely learn.

Credited with taking a 35-unit wings-and-beer-bar concept from an operation with little in the way of systems or strategic vision to a publicly held national chain of more than 700 restaurants with a goal of reaching 1,000 locations, Smith has had to make some tough decisions along the way. She continues to do so, as she guides Buffalo Wild Wings into its first international expansion – 50 locations are slated to open in Canada within the next five years – and she leads the National Restaurant Association as its chairman during what is undoubtedly a pivotal point in the industry’s history.

Her decision-making savvy has paid off. Known for its 18 signature flavors of wings, an extensive bottled and draft beer list, interactive game systems and multiple screens for viewing sports events, Buffalo Wild Wings also runs regular promotions to keep the crowds coming. On the beverage front, a recent introduction is the Nucleated beer glass – the pits in the bottom of the glass improve the beer’s head – while a constant flow of sports-oriented programs, such as the basketball Bracket Challenge, pique loyal guest interest. Such programs have propelled Buffalo Wild Wings to outperform the industry with significant system-wide and same store sales growth in recent years. So far in 2011, sales at company units increased 13.3%. Look for an engaging and insightful Keynote from this accomplished executive during the VIBE Conference.

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