In a few weeks, universities across the country will begin their fall semesters. Students will be setting up their dorms, getting ready for classes and making awkward, forced friendships that will vanish in a matter of weeks when COVID plows through campuses. And the start of the fall semester begs only one question — are you ready for some football?
Not this year. The idyllic American college experience has been shattered by COVID-19 and is taking down the sacred tradition of college football along with it. With no football to watch, there’s no reason to go to your favorite sports bar, have a few too many wings and get loud at your favorite team on the big screen.
That’s bad news for Buffalo Wild Wings ($NASDAQ:BWLD), which is in the unfortunate position of not just being a restaurant during a pandemic, but a restaurant that relies on sports for business.
We looked at 50 schools across four conferences — the Pac-12, Big Ten, Big 12, and the SEC — and mapped their proximity to Buffalo Wild Wings locations in an interactive map below. While these locations represent only a fraction of Buffalo Wild Wings’ total 1,240 stores, the fact that they appear so often in proximity to these schools shows how much this company relies on sports.
Even if the majority of its locations are not near one of these major universities, the lack of sports and caginess around the pandemic means Buffalo Wild Wings will hurt across the country — and these may be some of the hardest hit locations.
The greatest concentration of restaurants appears to be near schools that are part of the Big Ten and SEC, with the most notable concentration of restaurants being near the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and near Ohio State University.
These four conferences have put forth a number of statements and policies in a desperate attempt to make fall sports possible during COVID, but several high-profile outbreaks and cases, as well as the recent outbreak in the MLB, makes those efforts seem short-sighted as a, uh, short... pass? I don’t watch football.
If these schools do end up having their teams play, the fun probably won't last beyond a game or two. One likely scenario is that sports will start and abruptly stop without returning for the rest of the semester. Schools and Buffalo Wild Wings are not only contending with the resurgence of COVID in the United States, but also with the potential second wave that experts theorized may arrive in the fall, and which may already be hitting parts of Europe and Asia. It’s hard to imagine a world where football bros pound cheap bear and eat spicy wings without an easy treatment or vaccine for COVID-19, let alone without sports to watch.