By now, Buffalo Wings & Rings is no stranger to Texas—to date, nearly one third of the brand’s locations are scattered throughout the Lone Star state. So when Ismael Cantu opened a restaurant in Brownsville, Texas in May 2016, unsurprisingly, he was met by resounding community support the second he unlocked the doors to the public.
Cantu, a former teacher-turned-entrepreneur, was introduced to Buffalo Wings & Rings through a friend who operated a location in South Texas. After visiting the location and learning more about the brand, Cantu knew it was the perfect time to join the Buffalo Wings & Rings system and bring the restaurant to Brownsville.
“My friend owns successful Buffalo Wings & Rings locations in South Texas, and I always wanted to open up my own franchise,” Cantu said. “I love Buffalo Wings & Rings atmosphere, the food and how it offers a club-level experience that allows every guest to feel like a VIP. I knew this brand would be a perfect fit in Brownsville.”
The Brownsville location joined a consistently growing family of Buffalo Wings & Rings restaurants. The brand kicked off the first quarter of 2017 by opening new units at an impressive rate of on per month. This momentum comes after a successful 2016, where the brand signed an impressive 12 deals in a single year—one of which was Cantu’s. And when his location first opened its doors in late May of 2016, it was quickly met with a warm reception from the local community—and things haven’t slowed down since.
“We have grown a fan base thanks to three things: our great food, atmosphere and service,” Cantu said. “Celebrating the opening with our guests from Brownsville was an exciting step forward for the community, and I strongly believe we’ll become their future ‘go-to’ restaurant to grab a bite with the family or catch the big game.”
David and Brian Bourlier, two franchisees who operate two Buffalo Wings & Rings locations in Florida, share a similar story. When they scheduled the grand opening for their first location in Port Charlotte, they had one concern—what would bring people through the door? Working together with the corporate team, the Bourliers listened to different marketing tactics that would make their grand opening a success. Bouncing ideas back and forth, the Bourliers wanted to ensure the community was involved and receiving some sort of incentive.
That year, the brand was celebrating its 30th anniversary, so Buffalo Wings & Rings decided the first 84 customers would receive free wings for a year. The brand also sent a street team to go out into Port Charlotte to hand out promotional cards that guests could then bring in to the restaurant, where a server would pull a tab to reveal different prizes, including free appetizers, food for a year or even a plasma TV. The Bourliers sought even more community involvement and worked with the corporate office to plan a heated wing-eating competition between different Port Charlotte high schools hosted by a local radio station with a cash prize on the line. The franchisees also organized the Charlotte County Commissioner, Steven R. Deutsch, to come and welcome Buffalo Wings & Rings to the community.
“Everything Buffalo Wings & Rings did to help announce the grand opening has really made a difference in our everyday sales and traffic, and it took a lot of work on everyone’s part,” David Bourlier said. “We saw a dramatic increase in sales for weeks after the grand opening and continue to see more and more people becoming regulars.”
Both the Bourliers and Cantu credit the brand’s hands-on involvement for helping him make the biggest splash possible in his community’s dining scene. In fact, Buffalo Wings & Rings recently adjusted their strategy for grand openings—moving to a soft opening followed by a grand opening two days later. The Buffalo Wings & Rings team made this decision after finding that waiting the typical six weeks after the restaurant opened as confusing those in the community.
“We decided to celebrate from the beginning with activities, giveaways and promos, so once we open the doors and people visit us for the first time, they’re getting that little something extra,” said Christin Rose, Grand Openings Marketing Association for Buffalo Wings & Rings. “This creates even bigger buzz about the brand’s upcoming opening to their potential consumer base.”
This includes providing fun incentives and specials for guests throughout the opening week, including free food for a year for the first 84 guests to come through their doors.
“The key is to make the grand opening representative of the restaurant experience and the brand. While our actual grand opening is kept fairly low-key—basically involving a ribbon cutting—our goal is to broadcast the second-to-none guest experience that makes Buffalo Wings & Rings stand out. That’s why, it’s important that we always treat our new customers with something special to thank them for welcoming us into their community,” Rose said.