Buffalo Wild Wings goes beyond sports and beer with a fledgling L.A. chain
ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn. -- The Buffalo Wild Wings concept has been a smash. But now that the wings-sports-and-beer restaurants have multiplied across the land, what's next for the Golden Valley-based owners? The answer is taking shape in a St. Loui...
ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn. -- The Buffalo Wild Wings concept has been a smash. But now that the wings-sports-and-beer restaurants have multiplied across the land, what’s next for the Golden Valley-based owners?
The answer is taking shape in a St. Louis Park strip mall, where a create-your-own pizza place called PizzaRev opens its doors Wednesday.
PizzaRev is the first - but not the last - alternative dining concept that Buffalo Wild Wings is testing to see if it can continue a run that has made it a Wall Street favorite. From this point on, the company won’t only be a chicken wings outfit.
“Our objective is to find the next Buffalo Wild Wings growth story,” said Kathy Benning, its executive vice president of global marketing and brand development. “We are looking for another brand to help us achieve our next vision of 3,000 restaurants in our portfolio of brands.”
PizzaRev is a much different concept than Buffalo Wild Wings. The units are about half the size, there’s no sports linkage and no TV screens. Plus there’s a focus on speed. No one will come to PizzaRev to watch a three-hour ballgame.
Instead, it touts “this idea of getting a personalized pizza that is fresh, made from scratch, made right in front of you,” Benning said Monday over a thin-crust. “And, oh by the way, you get it (baked) in three minutes or so.”
Two entrepreneurs created PizzaRev in California and expanded the chain to nine locations, all in the Los Angeles area. That caught the attention of Buffalo Wild Wings, which was prowling for partners.
“We looked at well over 25 different pizza concepts, from more of a full-service concept to this more fast-casual pizza,” Benning said.
They liked the buzz that PizzaRev was generating from its fans - including in online reviews. They liked the hook of a $7.49 pizza no matter how many toppings you select. And they liked the passion of its founders, Irv Zuckerman and Rodney Eckerman, two longtime entertainment industry executives.
So the two companies became partners. It’s an interesting marriage.
Zuckerman and Eckerman remain majority owners of the pizza chain and will collect franchise fees as it expands to other markets. Buffalo Wild Wings is a minority investment partner and supplies counsel and expertise. For now, it’s also a PizzaRev franchisee. But if the concept truly takes off, Benning said, Buffalo Wild Wings aims to become the majority owner.
Beyond pizza, Buffalo Wild Wings eventually is hoping to add a total of three to five dining concepts to its stable. It won’t say what else is under consideration, but CEO Sally Smith last year offered some clues.
“We want it to be franchiseable; we want it to be small; we want passionate founders … we want it to work as well in Los Angeles as it does in Minneapolis.”
Why doesn’t Buffalo Wild Wings create its own new dining concepts? On Monday, in the loud and lively St. Louis Park pizza spot, Benning said, “It’s a good question and it’s one we contemplated.”
Ultimately, she explained, the company thought its best path was to join with passionate entrepreneurs who were keen to expand - as it did years ago in building the Buffalo Wild Wings brand. It would bring different strengths, “Which we believe is growing a brand, operational excellence, real estate, being a franchise, all these things,” Benning said.
At PizzaRev, customers walk through an ordering line and choose their type of dough, type of sauce, type of cheese, type of meat, and the vegetables and other toppings.
If you want a salad instead, you pass through the same line. There are no other choices except pizza and salad. Beverages include beer, wine and soft drinks. It does not offer pizza delivery.
A second PizzaRev outlet in Minnesota will open this year in Edina in the Centennial Lakes development. But for now, there are about 1,000 Buffalo Wild Wings locations worldwide - and 10 PizzaRevs.
The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.