Stores

Why Buffalo Wild Wings’s all-you-can-eat special worked out better than Red Lobster’s

The chain takes an apparent swipe at Red Lobster, asking customers to please not “bankrupt us.”
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Retail Brew delivers the latest retail industry news and insights surrounding marketing, DTC, and e-commerce to keep leaders and decision-makers up to date.

As Red Lobster struggles to claw its way out of bankruptcy, many note that part of what got it in hot water was its Ultimate Endless Shrimp promotion. The shellfish chowfest had been an annual limited-time special, but Red Lobster made it permanent in June 2023, and during an earnings call, its parent company’s CFO said doing so was “one of the key reasons” for the chain’s losses.

Diners who prefer shovels to cutlery may worry Red Lobster’s woes gave other restaurants indigestion concerning all-you-can-eat specials, but one, Buffalo Wild Wings, is doubling down on them.

In a May 13 Instagram post about its unlimited boneless wings and fries special, offered Mondays and Wednesdays for a limited time for $19.99, the company quipped, “pls don’t bankrupt us 🙏.”

Asked by Today.com to confirm it was mocking Red Lobster, Buffalo Wild Wings issued a statement that declined to do so, then coyly made another reference: “Our fans can rest assured that Buffalo Wild Wings will not be going bankrupt anytime soon.”

Def poultry jam: Placer.ai tracked traffic at Buffalo Wild Wings for the three Mondays and three Wednesdays when the chain ran the special, and the results were dramatic.

Traffic had been below the Monday average for the first five months of 2024 for nine of the 10 previous Mondays, but was way up on the three Mondays of the special, May 13 (29.7%), May 20 (43.9%), and May 27 (55.6%). Ditto for Wednesdays, below average for all 10 of the previous Wednesdays, then skyrocketing on May 15 (50.5%), May 22 (73.9%), and May 29 (36.6%).

One key difference, RJ Hottovy, who heads analytical research at Placer.ai, told Retail Brew via email, is that Buffalo Wild Wings made the deal a limited special rather than permanent.

“Buffalo Wild Wings is offering the promotion more selectively than Red Lobster—just two of the days a week” for only three weeks, he wrote.

As for all-you-can-eat promotions, rather than being spooked by Red Lobster’s (shr)implosion, Hottovy predicted chains will be encouraged by Buffalo Wild Wings.

It “was one of the most successful promotions in terms of driving increased visitations that we’ve seen in the casual-dining category in some time,” Hottovy concluded. “It wouldn’t be a surprise to see other chains introduce similar limited-time promotions.”

Retail news that keeps industry pros in the know

Retail Brew delivers the latest retail industry news and insights surrounding marketing, DTC, and e-commerce to keep leaders and decision-makers up to date.