Can sports-themed restaurants make their crowded and cacophonous “wing nights” more family friendly?
Cincinnati-based sports restaurant chain Buffalo Wings & Rings (BW&R) answered that question affirmatively with a full redesign of its 4,180-sf location in Milford, Ohio, where the company last year partnered with NELSON Worldwide to create a new wing-night experience that accommodates a variety of customers.
Using a data-driven approach that included interviewing and surveying consumers, NELSON devised a new service and operations model that leverages service zones and digital-assist components. BW&R provided research and input on branding, interior design, graphics to exterior architecture.
Since the completion of this project last October, the restaurant has been exceeding its sales goals and had gained a larger percentage of to-go/carryout business due to its fully integrated and dedicated valet pickup component, according to Aaron Ruef, NELSON Worldwide’s Design Director.
A recent survey of brand-loyalty customers found high levels of satisfaction with the ease and consideration of valet pickup, the overall modern look and visual appeal of the experience, and the consistent friendliness of the bar staff.
Ruef says this prototype was intended to support a holistic reimagining of the company’s brand. Last month, the company revealed its intention to roll out the new restaurant design. BW&R operates 60 restaurants in 13 states, with its heaviest concentration in Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky.
SEPARATING FANS FROM FAMILY DINERS
Family-friendly seating is separated from the bar area.
The rebrand began with the building’s exterior architecture, where the design concept’s standout characteristics include a mix of articulated brick, bold orange color, and embedded signage. Wanting to create a convenient, VIP to-go experience, and to address COVID-19 related restrictions on indoor dining, the team designed a Valet Pick-up drive-through lane where customers can place and pick-up their orders without having to leave their vehicles.
BW&R isn’t walking away from its sports-themed roots; quite the contrary. Inside the Milford location, the NELSON team has maintained the atmosphere conducive to sports fanatics and its after-work patrons alike. The seating at the bar and at the venue’s booths and tables is positioned for easy viewing of televised sporting events. To further embrace its theme, BW&R’s color palette features colors associated with a playing field. The space is defined by exposed brick walls, industrial steel columns, warm wood, as well as tones of orange, green, and gray. To heighten a sense of transparency and openness, steel partitions have a honeycomb patterned cutout for visibility and are reminiscent of the materials found at stadiums.
A screened-in lounge offers games for waiting patrons.
But the design team also envisioned an inviting and approachable environment for guests of any age and dining preference. To accomplish this, NELSON created a gathering experience area that focuses on families and includes sitting options on the opposite side of the bar to avoid noise and crowded areas. For guests looking to stay entertained while waiting or buying some time with their kids, a variety of analog games is available.
With all the family seating on one side of the restaurant, the bar now doubles as a unique hangout experience. It also features more standing space, stools around the bar, and seating options that are better equipped for a social dining experience.
“People love the ease and consideration of valet pickup, the overall modern look and visual appeal of the experience, and the consistent friendliness of the bar staff,” asserts Ruef.