Members of the Buffalo Wings & Rings franchise system gathered in Clearwater for their annual conference to celebrate the successes of the previous year and discuss ways to continue the momentum in the year ahead. The annual conference has become part family reunion and part war room to discuss and hash out best practices, goals, and a strategy for the year ahead.
This year’s conference theme was “Wings of Fortune” and maximizing restaurant profitability was a key focus of the event.
"We are facing something completely new coming our way - the whole industry shifting and changing. We have to change along with it,” said Nader Masadeh, CEO of Buffalo Wings & Rings. “The only way we are going to keep up with it is if we collaborate with our franchisees and our vendor partners. That was the theme of this year's conference - how are we going to combat all of those changes coming our way and be ahead and faster than everyone else so that we can stay ahead."
Buffalo Wings & Rings has been able to succeed while others have failed by focusing on their brand promise and offering their elevated menu and restaurant experience in the markets they serve. At the same time, the band is growing. The company signed 12 new franchise agreements in 2016 and has enjoyed a 12.5 percent average unit growth year-over-year for nine years.
Building on that success was a lesson championed by Lt. Col. Rob “Waldo” Waldman, one of the conference’s keynote speakers, who shared his personal story as a fighter pilot with 65 combat missions and 2,650 flight hours.
“Yesterday’s success doesn’t necessarily guarantee tomorrow’s,” Lt. Col. Waldman warned the crowd of franchisees, corporate team members and vendor partners.
While much time was spent in discussing ways to win in 2017 and beyond, there was also time to reflect on the successes of 2016. Those who went above and beyond in 2016 were recognized during the final night’s awards ceremony and gala with the Weyer/Bennett Group, franchisees of two locations in Indiana, taking home the night’s Franchisee of the Year award. Other notable award winners included the team from Bridgeport, Illinois who took home the award for Highest Annual Sales 2016, as well as the Community Service Award for their work with the Special Olympics and groups fighting childhood cancer. The Bridgeport team also won the “Sauce Challenge” – franchisees brought samples of sauces their team created to compete for the opportunity to be considered for an upcoming limited time offering or menu addition – with their Pineapple Habanero offering. The annual Buffalove Award went to Greensburg, Indiana, Tyler Rose won Manager of the Year, the Club Level Experience Award went to Northport, Florida, Local Store Marketing Award went to New Braunfels, Texas, and the Fetter Group took home the Growth MVP Award for their expansion into various new markets.
In his speech to the franchise community, Philip Schram, a co-owner and the chief development officer of Buffalo Wings & Rings, focused on a theme of winning both today and tomorrow – encouraging strong collaboration within each restaurant as well as among all the members of the franchise system. Schram discussed how every successful business encourages a spirit of sharing knowledge and experience to enhance all parts of the company. He also nodded to a focus on working together to continuously improve the franchise model.
“We are working on the evolution of the blueprint of the restaurant with the goal of reducing costs,” Schram told the gathered franchisees, vendors and partners. “A major change compared to previous initiatives is the collaboration. This includes franchisees, marketing team members, construction, architects, GC, and vendors. We are all collaborating simultaneously on the same blueprint. That is the only way to reduce costs and enhance our model.”
At the end of the conference, Masadeh was already focused on the remainder of 2017 and making sure that lessons from the conference didn’t stay in Clearwater.
"Every month after the conference for the next 6 to 9 months we will continue to drive this same message for almost the entire year so that this sticks in their mind and we continue to push that either through the FBM visits, MyBuffalo posts, videos, some online tools, and additional brochures and additional material that is sent to their stores."