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Buffalo Wild Wings estimates the integration process with Arby's to take between 6–9 months.

What's Next for Buffalo Wild Wings After Arby's Merger

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Changes are coming for the 1,200-unit chain. Here's what we know so far.
By Danny Klein January 2018 Chain Restaurants

Arby’s blockbuster acquisition of Buffalo Wild Wings is fast approaching. In SEC filings Wednesday, the company outlined some key dates and provided answers to questions surrounding the $2.9 billion agreement reached in November.

But before that, Buffalo Wild Wings estimated its financial performance for fiscal 2017 in one of the brand's final reports as a public company. The chicken-wing chain, which had 1,255 restaurants as of December 3, predicts same-store sales to be in the range of negative 1.6–1.7 percent. Buffalo Wild Wings expects total revenues for the year to be between $2.067–$2.069 million compared to $2.026 million in the prior-year period; and for estimated net earnings including noncontrolling interests to range between $70–$72 million versus $64 million the previous year. Buffalo Wild Wings’ total store net count increased nine restaurants in the year from the 1,246 units it had as of September 24, 2017.

As for the deal with Arby’s Restaurant Group, which is controlled by private-equity firm Roark Capital Group and came to $157 per share in cash, Buffalo Wild Wings held a town hall to discuss some of the upcoming changes.

"We are Buffalo Wild Wings. The same brand, restaurant experience, and product offerings that we have now will continue."

There is a shareholder vote scheduled for February 2, with the deal on target to close February 5, Buffalo Wild Wings said in the filing.

READ MORE: Buffalo Wilds Wings CEO Sally Smith is leaving on her own terms.

The company then outlined some goals and benefits of the merger.

No. 1: “Preserve the differentiated heritage of both Arby's and BWW while unlocking value not previously accessible within a single-brand construct.”

Arby’s operates more than 3,300 locations, and Roark boasts a vast restaurant portfolio that includes Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q, CKE Restaurants (parent company of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s), Corner Bakery, FOCUS Brands (Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, Carvel Ice Cream, Cinnabon, McAlister’s Deli, Moe’s Southwest Grill, and Schlotzsky’s), Il Fornaio, Jimmy John’s, Miller’s Ale House, and Naf Naf Middle Eastern Grill.

In other terms, financially speaking, Buffalo Wild Wings can accomplish a lot more as part of Arby’s portfolio than it could on its own.

Here are the other goals:           

  • Continue to deliver a winning experience for our customers
  • Build an organization recognized for its culture, talent strength, and retention
  • Ensure that above-restaurant organization and restaurants are positioned for success from Day 1
  • Realize value from increased scale and diversification of assets, channels, media, food categories, dayparts, etc.
  • Expand partnership opportunities with franchisees to build and operate restaurants with strong profitability
  • Create opportunities for industry-leading innovation via shared platform and capabilities

This brings up an important note, one the company addressed next, especially in regards to the idea of sharing platforms and capabilities. Who exactly is going to run Buffalo Wild Wings?

According to the chain, the two brands will not overlap as far as appearances go. They will continue to operate as distinct, independent organizations, Buffalo Wild Wings said.

“However, if we have shared services that serve both brands, the shared service entity would roll up to a new parent company with a name to be announced at close. Organization design decisions are currently underway,” the company said.

Employees won’t have to wait long to learn about leadership changes. Arby’s CEO Paul Brown, who will serve as chief executive officer of the parent company once the merger is complete, revealed at a January 10 town hall that he will announce his leadership team the week of January 22. The group will then begin reviewing the organization of their areas of responsibility, Buffalo Wild Wings said. If all goes well, February 12 will be the date leadership teams receive clarity regarding their new duties.

Another question likely to pop up: What do employees of Buffalo Wild Wings tell guests who ask about the Arby’s connection?

“We are Buffalo Wild Wings,” the company said. “The same brand, restaurant experience and product offerings that we have now will continue. This is an ownership change not a change to our brand/restaurant/products. BWW gift cards will remain specific to the brand and will retain their existing value after the sale.”

And no, there is no plan to open co-branded Arby’s/Buffalo Wild Wing’s locations. So you can forget roast beef and chicken wing combos for now.

Buffalo Wild Wings also addressed a recent lawsuit filed against the merger, saying “the complaint requests disclosure of additional details about some matters addressed in the Proxy Statement. These lawsuits are fairly common with publicly traded companies when a merger agreement is announced. We don’t expect any of these investigations or lawsuits to interfere with the transaction.”

The company estimated the integration process to take between 6–9 months. “Most decisions and planning will happen early on, with execution of the integration work to take place throughout the year. There will be some functions that may take more time to fully integrate, however, such as functions where new technology systems will be implemented,” it said.

Some other details: 

  • Even though Arby’s works with Coca-Cola, Buffalo Wild Wings will continue to feature Pepsi Co. products.
  • Buffalo Wild Wings is working to finalize brand positioning work in the coming weeks “to help inform future vision and strategies,” and could tweak some operational practices regarding the process.
  • The Business Conference in Washington, D.C. is still taking pace March 5–8.
  • Findings from a culture survey are expected to be shared in an upcoming communication. “The culture survey was designed as part of a recurring pulse survey to be completed by teams throughout the integration process,” Buffalo Wild Wings said.
  • In regards to retaining Buffalo Wild Wings employees, the chain said its goal is “to provide as much clarity as possible throughout the integration. There have been discussions around various programs focused on retention.”

Also: “While it is too soon to know the impact the integration will have on the organization’s structure, if there is an impact on home office team members, the company is prepared to help team members transition respectfully. Our transition packages will include severance payouts, and will also include outplacement.”

In regards to R Taco, Buffalo Wild Wings’ fast casual brand, the company said it would continue to operate as one of the brands under the parent company with a new name to be announced at close.