Nader Masadeh, CEO of Cincinnati-based elevated sports restaurant brand Buffalo Wings & Rings, was raised in restaurants. The co-owner and leader of the growing franchise understands the balance of growing a footprint while also continuously improving the profitability of existing restaurants. After a first half of 2017 that saw the company adding four new restaurants with four or five more to open before the end of the year, Masadeh is focused on building upon that momentum and avoiding some of the pitfalls that others in the casual dining space have faced in the last year.
"The entire casual dining segment is in a state of change, a state of flux, and we're seeing some established chains struggle to differentiate themselves, such as Applebee's or Friday's. We have not had those similar struggles, simply because we are extremely focused and our focus matches today’s customer’s expectation,” said Masadeh. “We have signature cuisine that we tailor our work around and we have a very focused menu strategy and execution that is aligned around our brand. I believe that gives us a little bit of an edge over other competitors."
The brand signed 12 new franchise agreements in 2016 and has enjoyed a 12.5 percent average unit growth year-over-year for nine years. Additionally, the company has continued to focus on their elevated menu, launching a new menu system wide in the spring which brought back a few popular items from previous LTOs and offered updated twists on classic dishes, including a new hand-shaped approach to further elevate its burger offerings.
"People don't come to us for just one occasion. They come to us for multiple occasions,” said Masadeh. “They come to us because they're craving wings. They come to us because there is a sporting event. They also come to us if there is a large group that wants to get together or an occasion like a birthday party."
The first half has also seen impressive growth for the brand among existing franchisees.
Todd Fetter and his group opened their first location in 2013 in Piqua, Ohio and have grown to nine locations in the last four years. They will be at 11 locations by summer 2018. Like many Buffalo Wings & Rings franchisees, the key to Fetter’s ability to grow has been the support he receives from his family and the corporate team.
“Failure is not an option. My family and I work very hard at this business. It’s the first business I’ve ever had where the family works with me. That’s a plus. We’re building a legacy, so there’s more initiative or incentive to keep building there. The other side of the coin is the corporate structure from Buffalo Wings & Rings with the support from site selection, construction, operations, HR, all the way down – if the support wasn’t there from corporate or the support from my family, there’s no way we would have done more than one. But it’s there, so we’re growing with them,” said Fetter.
Similarly, Al Hauck, a successful franchisee with locations in North Dakota, believes that the success franchisees in the Buffalo Wings & Rings system have seen goes back to the support structure of the corporate team.
“The reason we chose this brand when we bought into the brand, which was about ten years ago now, we bought it because of who the brand was and what they represented,” said Hauck. “They have our back. You can’t put a value on that. You can never do it alone. This franchise won’t let you do it alone – they’ve got your back,” said Hauck.
As the company embarks on the second half of 2017, that support-first mentality is one that Masadeh believes will continue to carry the brand past competitors not willing to adapt and evolve along with the industry.
"There are some franchisees that talk about support, and there are some that actually do it. We have three strategies and one of them is continuous improvement and development of our franchisees on a personal level and a professional level. And we live by that strategy because I believe that if we support them the proper way it is going to have a great return to the corporate office,” said Masadeh.