Buffalo Wings & Rings
2150 E. Lamar Blvd., Suite 110
Now seeking: entrepreneurs! Are you worth at least $1 million with at least $300,000 of capital in the bank? Do you have a passion for the restaurant industry and a desire for a sports restaurant experience that goes beyond chicken wings? Well then, being a Buffalo Wings & Rings franchisee might be the perfect job for you — at least, it was for 57-year-old Bill Melton.
Melton entered the restaurant industry 40 years ago, starting as a dishwasher and slowly working his way up the ladder to pay his way through college.
After graduating with his bachelor’s degree in business management from Virginia Tech, he worked in management at various restaurant groups such as Ruby Tuesday and Applebee’s until he realized he wanted to own his own restaurant.
“I had always wanted to,” Melton said. “Just the opportunity didn’t present itself, and quite honestly when you have a big commitment financially to buying into something of your own it makes it less appealing.”
It wasn’t until after Melton and his wife, Christine, attended a franchise expo in Houston that they decided to become Buffalo Wings & Rings franchisees. The couple were familiar with the brand from their decade of living in Cincinnati, Ohio, where the company is based.
“We knew of the brand and I love sports, I love wings and it seemed like a good fit for us,” Melton said. “When we started talking about the cost of the franchise it was more affordable than I realized, and so then we started working at could we make it a possibility.”
Buffalo Wings & Rings was founded in Cincinnati in 1984 with the goal of improving the food and customer service at chicken wing joints. According to Melton and Buffalo Wings & Rings Chief Development Officer Philip Schram, the brand offers a menu that is 90 percent fresh, never frozen and often farm-to-table.
Of its 55 U.S. locations, about 30 percent are in Texas, Schram said. However, Melton is the first to bring the brand to the Dallas-Fort Worth area with his $1.5 million development.
In 2016 the Meltons bought a franchise at 2150 E. Lamar Blvd. in Arlington, just minutes from AT&T Stadium, and they officially opened for business on Oct. 26 of that year.
Since then, Melton has used social media, new partnerships and new, daily happy hour specials to keep his business booming beyond football season.
Melton is, in fact, recognized as having the best social media presence in the Buffalo Wings & Rings system.
“Social media is one of those things that is so prevalent in trends in our society today that [for] a lot of the older guys like me, that if you don’t embrace it and really look at it on a daily basis, you’re going to be left behind,” Melton said. He uses Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google+ for his business.
He says that even though he has been using social media since day one, as he learns more and increases his presence he continues to see his sales increase. Compared to TV, print and radio ads, social media ads have far better margins in both costs of effective dollars and return on investments, Melton said.
Though he is active across platforms, he spends most of his advertising dollars on Facebook, especially since it offers free social media consulting to help advertisers reach a more targeted audience more effectively.
“I took the people that engaged with my page and [Facebook] had a snapshot of what those people like, so they took that information and did a look-alike for a 15-mile radius around my restaurant in similar type people” to target his ads to, Melton said. “And it really expanded my likes from, oh gosh, I went from 1,000 likes on my Facebook page at the end of December 2016 to 4,000 by June 2017. So we had quadrupled it in six months.”
While Melton says taking social engagement and turning it into sales “is a little bit of a drag as far as the planning goes,” he said that through the end of April 2018 his net sales are up 38 percent over last year, thanks in big part to both social engagement and word of mouth.
Melton also partnered with Fooda, an office lunch service company, in May 2016 to bring a limited Buffalo Wings & Rings menu to office buildings for lunch, generating about $5,000 per week in sales. So far he has done over 250 Fooda “catering” events and says he has several companies for which he caters semi-regularly once or twice a month.
From watching his competition and communicating with customers, Melton says, he realized that different, daily happy hour specials were more popular than offering the same special during a weekly happy hour time bracket.
“What threw the whole game in is I promoted [those new specials] for two weeks straight on social media and got 850 likes, 150 shares, something like that, and what I saw is my alcohol sales went up tremendously during that time period, traditionally a down period for me, and that’s when we really started taking off,” Melton said. “October 2017 was the reintroduction of the revamped happy hour and sharing it on social media, and that’s where we really saw the most interaction with the guest.”
And with the Buffalo Wings & Rings app Melton can offer online delivery or pickup, and from these services he reports an uptick of 17 percent in net sales.
Melton says Buffalo Wings & Rings’ goal is to be the go-to place for families and the gathering spot for celebrations, after-game events and special dates.
It’s also important for the business to be involved in the community, so the franchise sponsors Dining to Donate events for the North Arlington Little League, caters after-game events for the University of Texas at Arlington baseball team and donates to Mission Arlington.
A quick Google search of “wings in DFW” will find almost 15 restaurant chains that specialize in wings, and that’s not counting the number of actual stores, so for someone like Melton who is the first to bring his brand to the area, getting its name out there can be a challenge.
“If I had a dollar for every time I was called Buffalo Wild Wings, I would retire,” he said, laughing. “It’s understandable that people are familiar with certain names and [not others], but once they come in and they try our food and check out our restaurant and see what differentiates us from our competitors, we have their vote.”
Melton says the franchise’s fresh-never-frozen, literally farm-to-table wings from Sanderson Farms in Waco, with the kill date on the box, are part of what sets it apart from other chicken wing options.
“When you taste the difference … it’s a total game changer for your palate. When you have a piece of chicken, whether it’s a traditional wing with the bone in or a boneless wing of ours, and you compare it to the competition, there is no comparison,” Melton said. “I mean, once people try them they go, ‘Oh my god, this is awesome. I don’t usually eat boneless wings but these are great!’ Yeah, you have never had a good boneless wing – that’s why you don’t like them.”
Although wings is in the name, Buffalo Wings & Rings also offers nine types of burgers, sandwiches, salads, appetizers and desserts. And Melton has spent over $100,000 on an audio-visual package for customers to watch sports on the restaurant’s 34 65-to-75-inch TVs.
He hopes to bring another Buffalo Wings & Rings to Tarrant County in the next couple years.