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The firearms issued has infected eating establishments, a corporate store has apparently knee jerked its way into the headlines by denying service to plainclothes police officers.
Buffalo Wild Wings
When a company is riding high and its competitors are wondering what its secret is, that’s usually the worst time for an extremely public slip-up.
The folks at Buffalo Wild Wings’ (BWLD -0.30%) corporate offices in Minneapolis are dealing with that worst-case scenario after an employee at a Manassas, Va., outlet refused service to a group of plainclothes police officers because their guns were on display, which Virgina’s NBC12 WWBT notes is usually against the restaurant’s signed policy.
According to the Manassas Patch, a witness decided to launch a “public awareness campaign” just after the incident and sent the entire chicken-wing-and-sports casual dining empire into crisis mode.
The restaurant’s manager offered a written apology, said there was “no reason” the officers should have been denied service and that cops are “always welcome” at his establishment. Buffalo Wild Wings took it a step further by not only offering an apology via The Huffington Post, but spelling out corporate policy that explicitly allows officers to carry their guns in the restaurant when they show their badges, as the officers in this case did.
As mentioned earlier, this comes at a particularly delicate time for Buffalo Wild Wings. Market research firm NPD Group notes that the casual dining industry has been in a tailspin, losing business every quarter since 2010. Competitors like Red Lobster and Olive Garden owner Darden International (DRI +2.01%) and Chili’s owner Brinker International (EAT +1.56%) are changing everything from décor and uniforms to menu items and specials to stop the bleeding.
Buffalo Wild Wings, meanwhile, has watched sales grow each year during that span, with same-store revenues jumping 6.6% last year alone. Its U.S. presence has ballooned from 340 restaurants at the beginning of 2008 to 510 at the end of 2012. More importantly, March and early April are slated to be huge sales periods for Buffalo Wild Wings thanks to its new three-year partnership with the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament that allowed the restaurant to dub itself the “official hangout of NCAA March Madness.”
There’s no good time for bad publicity in an American restaurant market that’s steadily turning away from strip-mall chains and prepackaged food and décor. However, Buffalo Wild Wings knows full well that a few comment fields full of angry potential customers and some well-timed “Buffalo Wild Wings hates cops” chain e-mails from people’s disgruntled aunts and uncles could derail its lucrative ties to college basketball’s Big Dance quicker than a buzzer-beating jump shot.


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