Big-game day at Buffalo Wild Wings may truly be the next best thing to actually being present at a sporting event. Banks of large-screen TVs are visible in every direction, and roaring cheers punctuate the broadcast commentator analysis. The sense of camaraderie and competition that exists on the field — or in the sports arena — permeates the dining atmosphere. Contributing to that experience is the fact that Buffalo Wild Wings broadcasts not just the video, but also the audio content associated with these events.
“We want our guests to feel as if they’re at the stadium, or inside the arena,” says Barry Fortner, regional manager for Buffalo Wild Wings restaurants in portions of South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia. “We encourage a festive atmosphere. Making the audio available enhances that sense of being there.”
Because the telecasts include music as an integral feature, Buffalo Wild Wings partners with BMI to obtain licensing necessary to make audio available. Depending on the size of the restaurant, 95 to 100 televisions may be stationed in various areas of the facility, including the patios. Of paramount importance is the installation of state-of-the-art sound systems, especially since it is common for multiple events to be broadcast within a single dining zone.
Although its presence is sometimes subtle, music invariably is featured in all varieties of sports broadcasts. In that regard, BMI facilitates the procurement of licensing rights necessary for Buffalo Wild Wings to include audio in its televised sports presentations. Operating in a non-profit-making fashion, BMI distributes 86 cents of every dollar it collects in licensing as royalties to the more than 500,000 songwriters, composers and publishers the organization represents. A blanket licensing agreement between Buffalo Wild Wings and BMI allows the company’s restaurants to broadcast any of the 7.5 millions songs in BMI’s catalog, eliminating the need to secure licensing agreements on an individual basis.
“Audio clarity is a prime consideration,” explains Mr. Fortner. “We don’t want any sound distortion, which is something we have to be cognizant of with open ceilings. Our sound people have always figured out how to deal with that issue effectively.”
“Boxing, hockey, college football and college basketball — our guests want considerable volume for those types of events,” says Mr. Fortner. “And soccer as well. Remember those horns that were such a big part of last year’s World Cup? Our guests at our Greenville, South Carolina restaurant somehow managed to find those same types of horns, and began blowing them in the restaurant. It’s that sort of great atmosphere that having audio helps to create.”
Buffalo Wild Wings even goes so far as to encourage their personnel to become knowledgeable and fluent in matters related to sports. “We train our servers and bartenders to be able to talk with guests about the various teams, and about the players on those teams,” Mr. Fortner explains. The company also embraces a policy that seems counterintuitive, on the surface, in that it does not encourage fast table turns.
“That’s something that distinguishes us from lots of other sports bars and restaurants,” says Mr. Fortner. “We encourage people to remain with us for the full length of the game, or the sporting event.”
“We have always known that the energy and atmosphere our guests experience in our restaurants are key to our success,” observes Sally Smith, CEO of Buffalo Wild Wings. “We invest in big-screen TVs and great sound systems in order to give our guests a front row seat for all the action during their favorite sporting events. Working with BMI to license music for our more than 800 restaurant locations allows us to also play the audio to these matchups. It helps us create the kind of fun, high-energy dining experience that has made Buffalo Wild Wings a fan favorite for sports lovers of all kinds, which in turn has fueled our growth across the country.”