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Buffalo Wings & Rings Continues Growing its Leadership Team with Industry Experts

The wing franchise is continuing to invest in its internal leadership team with several recent hires, including Thomas Flaherty, Chief Development Officer; Bob Bafundo, Chief Operations Officer; and Phil Altieri, V.P. of Purchasing.

By Luca Piacentini1851 Franchise Managing Editor
SPONSOREDUpdated 8:08AM 07/28/20

Driven by a demand for an alternative to traditional sports bars, Buffalo Wings & Rings was established in 1984 in Cincinnati and focuses on the fun of gathering around sports events and everyday moments, as well as an elevated menu. 

Since its inception, the sports restaurant franchise has cemented itself as the go-to option for fans and families looking to watch their favorite sporting event in a friendly atmosphere. One of the main reasons for the brand’s unwavering success is its commitment to a chef-driven menu featuring fresh and innovative ingredients. Over more than three decades, the family-friendly sports restaurant has expanded to include 80 locations around the world, carving out a sizable niche for itself with a spirit of continuous improvement regarding its investment proposition and unit economics.

Part of this success is also attributed to the brand’s winning leadership team. Since being founded 30+ years ago, Buffalo Wings & Rings has put together one of the most talented and experienced executive teams in the restaurant industry, including Nader Masadeh, President & CEO; Daniel Doulen, Director of Franchise Development; Diane Matheson, VP of Marketing and Philip Schram, Chairman and Chief Brand Ambassador.

Now, the franchise brand is continuing to invest in its internal corporate team with several recent hires, including Thomas Flaherty, Chief Development Officer; Bob Bafundo, Chief Operations Officer; and Phil Altieri, V.P. of Purchasing. 

Thomas Flaherty, who joined the brand as Chief Development Officer in February 2020, brings extensive experience in the franchise industry to his new role. Flaherty has served as President of Blink Franchising, President and CEO at Agile Pursuits Franchising, Inc. (a P&G Company that franchises Tide Dry Cleaners), Chief Development Officer at Huddle House and V.P. of Global Business Development at Papa John's, where he spent nearly 14 years. 

"Having been in franchising for some time, there are a few things about Buffalo Wings & Rings that initially jumped out at me,” said Flaherty. “The brand is fun, with great, quality food; it has exciting investment and operating model numbers for existing and prospective franchisees; and  it values its strong relationships with franchisees. All of these are important to grow a brand in a constructive, collaborative way. What drew me to the role was the brand, the culture, the food, the people and the tremendous potential for growth!"

Since starting at Buffalo Wings & Rings, Flaherty has been responsible for an initiative that focuses on how the brand will position itself for growth, while maintaining focus on the initial investment and operating economics of the locations. “Challenges will always present themselves; however, the brand must be dynamic, creative and open to addressing these challenges, with the valuable assistance from the franchisees,” said Flaherty.

Another new hire, Bob Bafundo, joined the team in March 2020 as the Chief Operations Officer. Bufundo has an extensive background in the restaurant and franchising industries, working with brands such as KFC as Senior Director of Operations, Sports Clips as an Area Developer, Back Yard Burgers as Senior VP of Operations, Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill as President, Pizza Inn as President and, most recently, RAVE Restaurant Group Inc. as President. 

As the previous franchise owner of a Sport Clips location as well as a gourmet taco concept, Bafundo brings a perfect mix of leadership and franchisee expertise. As Bafundo notes, the Chief Operations Officer role combines his two passions — overseeing the brand's corporate stores while working closely with the franchise system. 

"When you're working with franchisees, it's one thing to say, ‘Do as I say,’ but another thing to say, ‘Do as I do,’ based on your own success,” said Bafundo. “As a company operator myself, I get the opportunity to prove my theories to the benefit of the entire franchise system. I’ve walked a mile in franchisees’ shoes, so I understand their challenges and frustrations, as well as the support they need to succeed. The challenges I faced  as a franchise owner allowed me to become a better leader — and the better the franchisees are performing, the better the franchisor performs." 

Bafundo, who is starting his journey with Buffalo Wings & Rings in the midst of a pandemic, remarked that the situation has already allowed him the opportunity to “go an inch wide and a mile deep,” in providing very focused support to help the franchisees through the crisis. 

Phil Altieri, the brand’s new Vice President of Purchasing, has been in the food service industry for 40 years and has maintained a strong relationship with Buffalo Wings & Rings for over a decade. Altieri worked for the distributor of the brand before being asked to work internally by Nader. Since joining the team in January 2020, Altieri has been responsible for driving costs out of the system and providing value to franchisees in terms of renegotiating contracts, reducing costs and providing market expertise. 

"We are adamant about never leaving one stone unturned — always making sure that owners have what they need in a timely manner,” said Altieri. “We have provided tons of support amid COVID-19. When I talk to other brands, some were furloughing the teams that supported franchisees, whereas Buffalo Wings & Rings was focused on creating the best line of support as possible for the franchise system, and for the long-term." 

With these additions to the leadership team, Buffalo Wings & Rings is able to provide franchisees with the support they need to maintain the brand’s level of great service, high-quality food, fun and community, and to emerge from this pandemic stronger than ever.

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