Buffalo Wild Wings to Expand Goofy Bar Food Empire

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Aug. 25 2014 7:07 PM

Buffalo Wild Wings Invests in Tacos and Pizza

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One of America's favorite foods.

Photo by jeffreyw via Flickr

Burger King stole the restaurant world's spotlight today with its potential bid to buy Canada's beloved Tim Hortons, presumably to avoid paying high U.S. corporate taxes. But another interesting announcement came out of Buffalo Wild Wings, when the company said it had made a majority investment in Mexican chain Rusty Taco and a minority one in upscale pizza restaurant PizzaRev.

Dallas-based Rusty Taco is a relatively small chain with additional locations in Colorado and Minnesota. It falls into the red-hot fast-casual dining sector and specializes in "street-style tacos" according to a press release from Buffalo Wild Wings. PizzaRev is mostly located in California and geared toward the all-natural, health-conscious crowd based on a quick glance at its menu (gluten-free pizza dough and toppings like fennel seeds and arugula feature prominently).

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"Buffalo Wild Wings' investment is part of our strategy to partner with emerging restaurant concepts that have the potential for significant growth, can work throughout the country and have a highly engaged management team with a passion to grow the business," Kathy Bennings, Buffalo Wild Wings' executive vice president and chief strategy officer said in a statement.

Buffalo Wild Wings is a favorite among analysts and was named the fastest-growing casual dining chain in the U.S. by Nation's Restaurant News last June. Interestingly and perhaps coincidentally, its decision to expand into tacos and pizza gives it a similar selection to Yum! Brands, the parent company of Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and KFC. Heather Leiferman, a spokeswoman for Buffalo Wild Wings, says this is because tacos, along with chicken wings and pizza, "are one of America's most popular foods." Fair enough.

Whereas Pizza Hut, KFC, and Taco Bell are firmly into the fast-food dining sector, Buffalo Wild Wings and its new investments are much more focused on the fast-casual segment. It's a great place to be in the restaurant business right now—called by some the sweet spot of the industry, it led growth in 2013 with an 11 percent increase in sales. Buffalo Wild Wings is already riding the fast-casual boom in chicken wings. Maybe it can get on board for pizza and tacos as well.

Alison Griswold is a Slate staff writer covering business and economics.

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