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Buffalo Wild Wings sees a downturn - but here’s how it can spread its wings and fly

4 months ago by Jon Marino in Markets

Buffalo Wild Wings was bought for $2.4 billion by a private equity firm in 2017, and pulled from public markets - so investors don’t get a view into the mega-food-chain’s performance the way they once did.

But taking a look at the wing purveyor's data - especially with a peak season, with the National Football League kicking off this Thursday - highlights both positive and negative trends. 

One thing that private equity is known for is bringing efficiency to management - and judging by this chart, that's what Roark Capital, which has been the owner of the wing chain for the last couple of years, has done. Since negotiations were reported, job postings in management - which is what our chart is tracking - have fallen 23%. Although - since 2019 began, jobs postings in management have risen about 14%. 

Roark Capital is the Atlanta-based private equity firm that has rolled up a number of brands, Buffalo Wild Wings among them, into Inspire Brands, its dining platform that counts among its other assets Rusty Taco, SONIC and Arby's. Because it's put together a platform of brands, it's not unreasonable to also expect it found some management synergies between all of its restaurants. 

Under Roark, an aggressive re-design strategy was implemented, aimed at appealing to both Buffalo Wild Wings' long-time user base, as well as younger consumers. It linked up with daily fantasy site DraftKings ($DRAFTKINGS) for a partnership, brought in Xbox and PlayStation consoles for gaming and began contemplating what its future would look like in a US where sports gambling was both increasingly legal and accessible. If it's successful, the chart above will probably continue to reflect growth - it's Buffalo Wild Wings' Facebook ($NASDAQ:FB) Were Here Count, and it continues to rise.

But not everything is cooking with Buffalo Wild Wings. Our final chart shows that another key social metric - Facebook Likes - has stalled. It's a bigger problem for an app, than for a brick-and-mortar company that is more dependent on foot traffic than social buzz - but it is still a signal that the brand needs to better engage with someone out there. 

There is one, crucial, final factor that may have a bigger impact than a brand re-design, in-store gambling, or Facebook Likes. The easy one - the price of the commodity Buffalo Wild Wings relies upon most. And fortunately for it, Inspire, and Roark - the price of chicken as a commodity is down more than 25% from its peak last summer. 

About the Data: 

Thinknum tracks companies using information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales. 

Further Reading: 

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Jon Marino

Jon Marino is Thinknum's finance editor, covering the impacts of alternative data on public companies and investors. Prior to joining Thinknum, Jon worked in the ...

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