Buffalo Wild Wings' All-You-Can-Eat Deal Boosts Traffic By Up To 74%

It's no secret that restaurants have struggled in the throws of post-pandemic repercussions, including food inflation, supply chain issues, labor issues, and changing customer habits. While some are bowing to bankruptcy protection or store closings, others lean into former glory-day marketing schemes such as all-you-can-eat specials and "endless" bowls or plates of everything from seafood to pasta and, yes, even chicken wings. That's exactly what's happening Buffalo Wild Wings, the restaurant and sports-bar chain affectionately nicknamed B-Dubs.

B-Dubs, (which registered its nickname with the US Patent and Trademark Office back in 2007), operates 1300 eateries spanning dozens of U.S. states. It is now gambling on a venture similar to one that's taken down one of its competitors in the multi-venue world of chain restaurants. The Buffalo Wild Wings special is a dine-in exclusive called All You Can Eat Boneless Wings+Fries.

The bottomless supply of wings, launched on March 13, allows customers to devour endless wings and fries, as well as a choice of 20 B-Dubs sauces, for a flat fee of $19.99. By all accounts, it's been a resounding success, at least in terms of foot traffic, per consumer tracking firm Placer.ai. On Mondays and Wednesdays, when the special is valid, the company has clocked notable traffic increases, some as high as 74%, obliterating former negative traffic patterns. What's yet to be seen is whether that increase translates into profits or favorable longterm benefits.

Succeeding in all-you-can-eat territory

A crucial component of the Buffalo Wild Wings all-you-can-eat wings promotion is the time frame. It's clearly marketed as being available for a limited time period, which differs from the lethal blow sustained by Red Lobster when implementing the return of its formerly popular Endless Shrimp promotion. The management team gambled on making it a permanent menu item, and they lost, big time. Though foot traffic greatly increased in Red Lobster restaurants, the decision is partly credited with driving them into bankruptcy, posting an $11 million loss in third quarter 2023, and leading the owners to seek divestiture from their Red Lobster holdings.

Buffalo Wild Wings and other chains with all-you-can-eat specials, including Olive Garden's occasional Never Ending Pasta Bowl, have the advantage of garnering publicity and foot traffic, yet with an end game. Nonetheless, industry experts caution against undesirable effects of even short-lived super deals. The hope is that customers will spend elsewhere on the menu to compensate for losses, but that's not always the case, and some diners inevitably over-consume.

In addition, high-consumption specials mean customers will likely linger considerably longer at tables. This can lead to limited table turnover, longer wait times, and fewer tips for restaurant servers. Another danger is raising customer expectations of lower prices. Thus far, Buffalo Wild Wings is holding firm in its commitment to all-you-can-eat wings and fries. It even seemed to take a dig at its failed rival with a tweet: "pls don't bankrupt us."