Buffalo Wild Wings has 'no comprehensive plan,' activist Marcato says

Key Points

• Activist investor Marcato Capital Management says Buffalo Wild Wings has become too big for CEO Sally Smith to manage
• Hedge fund founder Mick McGuire says that adding himself and three other restaurant industry executives to the company's board is the only way to spark real change
• McGuire calls Buffalo Wild Wings alignment with shareholders "disappointing"

Marcato's McGuire: If BWLD does these three things, stock could double or triple

Activist investor Marcato Capital Management doubled down Thursday on its assertion that Buffalo Wild Wings has become too big for its CEO, Sally Smith, to manage.

Marcato, which owns 6.1 percent of the restaurant chain's outstanding stock, sent a letter on Thursday to shareholders calling for Smith's ouster.

"In order to get the company back on the right path, we need a management team that's more well-suited to the challenges of the company," Marcato founder Mick McGuire said on CNBC's "Halftime Report."

Shares of Buffalo Wild Wings were up 5 percent in afternoon trading.

McGuire said because the board has "blindly stood by management" and that Smith should be replaced to restore "oversight and accountability."

The company defended Smith's performance, saying she has helped generate huge returns for shareholders.

McGuire, however, told CNBC that real change can only occur if he and three other experienced restaurant industry executives are brought onto the board.

"We think we can work effectively with the remaining board members to map out a process to identify a really compelling candidate in a short period of time," he said.

In February, Marcato nominated McGuire and three others directors to the board. But in late March, Buffalo Wild Wings picked only one of Marcato's suggestions: Sam Rovit, who has 20 years of experience in the food service industry.

The gesture was not enough for Marcato. The firm said last month that B-Dubs did "not go far enough" and had not addressed the firm's proposed operational improvements and business model modifications, which it says will drive value for shareholders.

McGuire has criticized the company's "significant deterioration" of traffic, same-store sales, operation margins and return on capital. He also says that there is room to improve the chain's guest experience and technological innovations.

"There is absolutely no comprehensive plan by this management team or board to address any of these issues," McGuire said Thursday. "The actions that we've observed so far we would describe as window dressing around the edges that still fail to, you know, really address the wide range of issues that need to be focused on."

In March, McGuire published a presentation for investors that argued the executives' interests were not closely aligned with the chain's shareholders. McGuire noted that none of the Buffalo Wild Wings executives owns shares in the company and only one director has ever executed an open-market purchase of the stock.

He also argued at the time that B-Dubs' management team has been using equity incentive plans to purchase shares at a lower price and then sell them on the market to make cash.

"The alignment with shareholder interest has been really unfortunate and disappointing for several years on end," McGuire said. "The management team and the board have been wholesale sellers of shares over time. That's not the kind of alignment that you want to see."

He told CNBC on Thursday that restaurant brands like Darden and Arby's are strong examples of companies that have undergone significant revitalization and flourished. He also reiterated that the company should franchise more of its restaurants.

"I don't think that there's any one quick fix," McGuire said. However, he called on shareholders to vote during the company's upcoming annual meeting to make some significant changes.