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Buffalo Wings & Rings Is Changing the Definition of ‘Sports Bar’ With Fresher Food and a Family-Friendly Atmosphere in 2021

The fast-growing franchise is leaning on a revamped restaurant model for major growth this year.

By Sarah Brown1851 Franchise Copy Editor
Updated 9:09AM 08/16/21

Sports bars are known for their large-screened TVs, wall-to-wall sports memorabilia and fried food, but what they’re missing is a family-friendly, club-level atmosphere. Buffalo Wings & Rings, the 85-plus unit sports restaurant and bar franchise, fills that gap by redefining the way customers think about sports bars and restaurant chains.

Now, the brand is on a mission to take its innovative concept to new markets with a recently revamped store design, robust franchisee support infrastructure, low financing interest rates, development incentive program and an expert leadership team.

“The long-term vision of the company is to continue to grow and bring new and exciting things to the table in the spirit of continuous improvement,” said Thomas Flaherty, chief development officer for the brand. “We have so many things to be excited about, and, in many ways, we have used this past year wisely in planning to slingshot into even greater growth than we otherwise would have experienced.”

How Buffalo Wings & Rings Adapted During COVID-19

While many restaurants struggled with COVID-19 restrictions in 2020, Buffalo Wings & Rings was ahead of the curve. The brand launched its revamped restaurant designs in September 2020 in response to dining and entertainment trends created by the pandemic, but it had been planning a remodel long before COVID-19 broke out.

“COVID played a role in the redesign of the restaurants, but we were actually a little bit ahead of COVID too,” said Diane Matheson, vice president of marketing at Buffalo Wings & Rings. “We started this labor of love a couple years ago; we knew there were a few things we wanted to address given the current state of the world.”

The brand also pivoted and adapted to the COVID-19 environment by shifting its marketing strategy to reach as many customers as possible. And that shift in focus resulted in major sales. Pickup orders went from approximately 15% of the business in 2019 to 40% of the business in 2020 at the updated restaurant.

According to Matheson, the brand also became more digitally savvy in 2020 to focus on increasing its customer base. For example, Buffalo Wings & Rings increased its presence on social media platforms like Facebook and rewarded customers with gift cards and swag for their social media engagement. The brand also offered cooking segments to keep fans interested in their menu options.

“In my mind, the pandemic has done nothing different to the restaurant experience other than accelerate things that were already happening,” said CEO Nader Masadeh.

Why Buffalo Wings & Rings’ Sports Restaurant Concept Is Poised for Growth

The pandemic has changed consumers’ dining habits, but with COVID-19 related restrictions slowly easing up, studies predict that 73% of consumers will feel comfortable dining out within the next six months. And many brands in the restaurant industry are preparing to meet that demand.

Sports fans make up a large portion of consumers who are itching to return to normalcy. After more than a year of large gathering restrictions and game postponements, fans are looking for a fun but safe alternative to watching the game at home in 2021. And sports restaurants like Buffalo Wings & Rings can fulfill that need.

Driven by a demand for an alternative to traditional sports bars, Buffalo Wings & Rings aims to take the fun of gathering around sports events and elevate that experience with better food than consumers have come to expect from the bar scene. Franchise owners can carve out a sizable niche in their market as an alternative to traditional sports bars, where food and customer service are too often treated as an afterthought.

“Many people think sports restaurants are all about sports, but they are really just about human connection,” said Masadeh. “Sports are just one way that people connect. Now, traditional sports restaurants will continue to shift what they show on television and customize the menu to promote shareability and unique dining experiences.”

Why Buffalo Wings & Rings Franchisees Love the Brand

Over the past year, Buffalo Wings & Rings doubled down on the support it provides its franchisees, offering a commitment to franchisee incentives like its revamped restaurant design with an updated logo, a development incentive program that waives the initial $40,000 franchise fee and royalty fees for six months and a new POS system with cutting-edge technological improvements.

But the brand doesn’t stop there: It has also increased departmental support with weekly calls to its entire family of franchisees, and it is building an even stronger foundation through quarterly franchise webcasts, annual franchise conventions and access to a franchise advisory council.

For franchisees like Frances Zwick, the brand’s dedication to supporting its franchise owners was a main factor that drew her to the brand. “I instantly fell in love with their system,” she said. “It was very different from the other ones I looked at, and I knew right away that they were invested in me and I was invested in them. They want to see each franchisee succeed.”

Buffalo Wings & Rings has continued to appeal to qualified entrepreneurs like Zwick, who also participate in BW&R’s franchise advisory council, due to its proven business model and robust franchisee support infrastructure.

“Buffalo Wings & Rings offers that proven and scalable model to its franchisees, which is why we continue to invest in the brand,” added Zwick.

Multi-unit Texas owner Victoria Alvarez feels like she is truly a part of the team with Buffalo Wings and Rings*

“I see corporate that way — we all work in a team together. It’s an awesome brand,” she said. “I look forward to learning from this brand every single day as much as I can.”

How Buffalo Wings & Rings Will Expand Its Footprint

According to Flaherty, Buffalo Wings & Rings has a goal to always be in a state of “continuous improvement.” One way it is accomplishing that goal in 2021 is by expanding its growth potential to domestic and international territories.

The sports restaurant franchise has vast growth potential all across the country, with franchise opportunities in multiple new territories in Florida, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Kansas, Michigan and Indiana.

But Buffalo Wings & Rings isn’t limiting its growth potential to the U.S. — it’s also planning to expand its franchise opportunities to a new international market this year: Mexico. With strong brand presence in the Middle East and Europe already, the brand has its sights set on becoming a leading global player in the game of sports restaurant franchises.

The Buffalo Wings & Rings Franchise Investment

The initial franchise fee for a Buffalo Wings & Rings is currently being waived, with a minimum investment of $1,110,200 (based on leased space of 5,000 sq. ft.) and minimum qualifications of $500,000 minimum liquidity and $1,250,000 minimum net worth.

According to the brand’s FDD, Buffalo Wings & Rings franchise locations have an average gross sales amount of $2,453,953.

Along with waiving the initial franchise fee of $40,000, Buffalo Wings & Rings is eliminating the first six months of royalties for prospects who qualify in 2021 through a new development incentive program. The brand understands that business owners need support as soon as possible. While most incentive programs are only available for incoming prospective franchisees, the Buffalo Wings & Rings incentive program is available to both new owners and those looking to expand within the Buffalo Wings & Rings system this year.

“When the pandemic first hit, we offered royalty reductions for all locations to help owner's weather the storm,” said Masadeh. “Now, we are continuing to support our new and existing franchisees as we transition back to a new state of normal. The first six months of business ownership can be challenging as you learn the ropes, and our development incentive will help qualified prospects through the initial financial phase of opening a new Buffalo Wings & Rings location.”

This development incentive is not the first for the brand. In 2018, Buffalo Wings & Rings offered a “One Franchise Fee for Life” franchise development incentive to franchisees who wanted to grow with the brand but were concerned about being able to afford the cost of opening multiple units.

“We cannot exist without our franchisees — we are not a separate entity; we are all working together to grow the Buffalo Wings & Rings brand,” Masadeh said. “We know our job is to promote our owners’ longevity in the system. We want the franchisees to know we are truly there as a partner and will give them the support they need, both financially and otherwise.”

Why the Leadership Team Is More Excited Than Ever

The COVID-19 pandemic challenged Buffalo Wings & Rings to pivot, adapt and find new ways to support its franchisees. According to Flaherty, the brand’s current and future success can be attributed to its decision to put franchisee support first.

“Franchise brands make the bulk of their revenue from a royalty stream fueled by successful franchise operations. We feel that by strengthening the entry point to our brand, we can show strong operators that we are committed to their success and not focused on additional fees,” said Flaherty.

With big expansion plans, a loyal customer base and a proven franchise model that is dedicated to franchisees’ success, Buffalo Wings & Rings is ready to take on another strong year in 2021.


Established in 1984 in Cincinnati, Ohio, Buffalo Wings & Rings is the ultimate sports restaurant franchise providing a club-level experience with better food, VIP views and our Buffalove® Service Promise. The franchise is taking game-time to the next level with bright, inviting dining rooms, elevated fan experiences and a chef-inspired menu featuring a rotation of seasonal and diverse limited-time offerings, fresh salads, homemade Bleu Cheese, innovative sandwich options, hand-pressed burgers and fresh, never frozen wings to satisfy every sports fan. With more than 85 units across the globe, Buffalo Wings & Rings is changing the sports restaurant category, bringing elevated food and experiences that are accessible and affordable to all. For more information, visit

*This brand is a paid partner of 1851 Franchise. For more information on paid partnerships please click here.