Having Words With: Sally Smith, Chief Executive, Buffalo Wild Wings


One year has made a huge difference in Buffalo Wild Wings’ cost structure, but chief executive Sally Smith remains focused on managing the 837-unit chain not only through the high commodity inflation of 2012 but also over the long term as a high-growth company.

A 4.4-percent increase compared with a year earlier in Buffalo Wild Wings’ food costs shrunk the brand’s restaurant-level margins by 3.4 percent in the June 24-ended second quarter. Yet the chain still managed strong gains in same-store sales and net income, and Smith hopes to maintain that momentum in 2012 and beyond with several key initiatives.

Later this year Buffalo Wild Wings will debut a new prototype in Cincinnati and San Diego while remodeling several restaurants to include new features like upgraded kitchens and audio-visual packages. By year end the chain hopes to complete testing of a new menu pricing system to fight commodity inflation, in which it will sell wings not by a set number per order but through qualitative amounts like “single” and “double” orders.

An acquisition of another growth brand also is possible, although there is still plenty of room to develop Buffalo Wild Wings and its people, Smith said.

HOMETOWN: Grand Forks, N.D.
EDUCATION: bachelor of business administration, accounting, University of North Dakotaa

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