News Feature | July 3, 2017

Restaurant And Hospitality News – July 3, 2017

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

Olive Garden

In news this week, Millennials are driving growth at Olive Garden; and Buffalo Wild Wings is implementing strategies to regain market share in part by taking their Blazin’ Rewards loyalty program nationwide.

Olive Garden Announces 4th Quarter Growth Driven By Millennials

According to Darden Restaurants Inc., same-store sales at its Olive Garden brand rose 4.4 percent in the 4th quarter, thanks in large part to millennial business and simplification, according to the Nation’s Restaurant News. This marked the 11th consecutive quarter that the chain saw same store sales growth, and it outperformed industry benchmarks by 590 basis points. Darden CEO Gene Lee said that millennials love the chain, stating during an earnings call that “Contrary to popular belief, Millennials still like going to restaurants. Millennials still want to come to casual dining. Thirty percent of our guests are Millennials, compared to 24 percent of the overall population. So we over-index with Millennials.”

Lee attributed the positive results to the company’s focus on food, service and atmosphere driving simplification efforts, which “continue to enable us to improve execution on our restaurants and strengthen team member engagement, as evidenced by our industry leading retention rates. The fact that our guest satisfaction scores are at all-time highs, while we are growing guest count is a clear indication that we’re improving operationally.”

Lee asserted, “The numerous investments the Olive Garden team has made over time, such as our remodels and bar refreshes, new kitchen equipment and the technology platform behind Olive Garden to go, continues to pay off. The team is making meaningful strategic decisions where both our guests and our team members win.”

According to the NRN, Darden said that Olive Garden generated strong sales mostly on traffic gains. In order to take market share, executives made the decision to keep menu price increases to a minimum. “We made the strategic choice to underprice to inflation, so we’re underpricing our competitors,” Lee said. “We have some large competitors out there donating significant share,” he added. “We have a more compelling offer.” 

Traffic at Olive Garden increased 2 percent.

Buffalo Wild Wings’ Blazin’ Rewards Now Available Nationwide

Buffalo Wild Wings has announced that its Blazin’ Rewards loyalty program is now available at its more than 1,200 locations nationwide. With this loyalty program, diners can now earn points for purchases at all Buffalo Wild Wings restaurants, and accumulate bonus points for checking in or making frequent lunch visits. For every eligible purchase of $10 or more, guests earn 100 points, which can be redeemed for more than 44 items on the Rewards Roster.

Guests also can earn points for filling out their interests page on the Blazin’ Rewards website or app or for checking in at Buffalo Wild Wings restaurants and can receive additional points when they check in with friends.

"As the sports fan's biggest fan, the Blazin' Rewards loyalty program was designed to thank and continually reward our passionate fans," said Bob Ruhland, vice president of marketing for Buffalo Wild Wings. "We've seen positive engagement rolling out Blazin' Rewards in select markets so far, and as the program grows, so too will our roster of rewards and point earning opportunities for our loyal Guests."

The loyalty program was introduced as part of a larger strategy to reverse weak same-store sales, which saw a 2.4 percent drop in 2016. The strategy also includes the sale of some 83 of its 600 company-owned locations to franchisees.

Since piloting the loyalty program in select markets, Buffalo Wild Wings has registered more than two million Blazin' Rewards members across the United States. On a company earnings call, the company also said that loyalty members accounted for 21 percent of transactions thus far, the Nation’s Restaurant News reported.