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Buffalo Wild Wings wants to emulate Google, Apple to predict when you'll crave wings

  • Buffalo Wild Wings is betting heavily on technology to forge a successful turnaround after more than a year of sluggish sales.
  • In October, the company revamped its website, leading to a 20 percent boost in online transactions.
  • The chicken wing chain wants to emulate tech giants like Apple and Google to provide its customers with a better eating experience.
Source: Buffalo Wild Wings

Buffalo Wild Wings is hoping to forge a successful turnaround after more than a year of sluggish sales and it's betting heavily on tech to make it happen.

In October, the company revamped its website, leading to a 20 percent boost in online transactions, but it's not stopping there, the company said.

Buffalo Wild Wings told CNBC that in addition to revamping its online ordering, the chicken wing chain wants to emulate tech giants like Apple and Google to provide its customers with a better eating experience.

To do so, Brooks Goldade, director of digital experience at B-Dubs, told CNBC that the company is looking to bolster technology that is anticipatory.

"Anticipatory is really being led by the tech giants, the Googles and the Apples, who are trying to figure out what you need when you need it or slightly before you need it," he said.

Goldade said that Buffalo Wild Wings has already built in some of this technology into its platforms, so that it can change how its customers interact with the brand.

He said that part of the company's plan to engage with diners is through "personalization layers" on its website, which track things like a customers' location. Through this data the company can make customers aware of local deals and target areas with specific sports rivalries.

For example, this Halloween, the company produced a "scary" video of a Florida college football fan dressed as a Georgia football fan and had the video appear on its website for users within the area of that rivalry.

While engaging its digital users is a priority for the brand, Goldade said the company will always put the food first. The revamp of its website transformed the ordering platform to focus on convenience, customization and letting diners see the food they are about to order.

Goldade said the brand wanted to "engage your brain in a way that makes you hungry" by having large photos of Buffalo Wild Wings' burgers, chicken sandwiches and wings in the online order form.

"I don't want to think about adding bacon, I want to see it," he said.

Goldade said that Panera is the leading player in providing a visual element to the ordering process, noting that the soup and sandwich company provides its diners with images of its food online and through its ordering kiosks.

Like most companies, Buffalo Wild Wings receives a higher check from its online orders, so there is a lot of incentive to boost the number of these orders.

Goldade said that currently more than a quarter of takeout orders for Buffalo Wild Wings' company-owned locations are made through digital channels like mobile and online. The company hopes to see this number increase as its online platforms allow for more customization and convenience.

The company declined to provide more specific sales information.

Buffalo Wild Wings has reported negative same-store sales for seven out of the last eight quarters.

The chain has been under pressure from investors for more than a year, including waging a heated proxy battle with Marcato Capital Management. In June, Marcato won three of the four board seats they were seeking in that contest.

The stock had dropped 34 percent over the past year from $163 a share to $108 a share, before B-Dubs surprised the street on Oct. 25 when it beat its third-quarter earnings expectations.

Shares got another jolt this week following reports that Roark Capital was interested in purchasing the company. Shares rallied more than 26 percent on that news.