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Buffalo Wild Wings bets on EMV to grow tablet payments

Buffalo Wild Wings plans to roll out a number of different in-restaurant and mobile initiatives in the next year, but is particularly focused on loading both entertainment and commerce into tablets to increase revenue.

The fast casual restaurant laid out a roadmap of its digital and mobile initiatives during its Analyst Day earlier this week. Many of these efforts will slowly incorporate new types of payments so that consumers have choices in how they pay.

“As for using tablets for guest payments, as you know, the payment world is changing to improve the security of credit card transactions,” said Lee Patterson, senior vice president of guest experience and innovation at Buffalo Wild Wings, Minneapolis, during the Analyst Day presentation.

“We’re looking at implementing the more secure, Europay Mastercard Visa — or EMV — chip processing system,” he said.

“Because of this, we believe that guest payment via tablet will be available in 2015.”

Growing tablet opportunities
Tablets are already in 230 Buffalo Wild Wings restaurants, which includes 190 company-owned locations. The goal is to have the tablets in all Buffalo Wild Wings restaurants by the end of the year and in all franchise locations by 2015.

Buffalo Wild Wings will test menu ordering during the end of the second-quarter of this year in the Minneapolis market. In conjunction with the broader rollout of tablets, the menu ordering will also be included in all markets.

The brand is also testing a new social jukebox feature that will let consumers change the music playing inside the restaurant and an arcade feature that incorporates several games.

Buffalo Wild Wings also sees an opportunity to use the tablets internally so that staff can communicate with each other.

The idea behind the new tablet features also ties into a bigger original content push that Buffalo Wild Wings hopes to expand on with its “B-Dubs TV” in-restaurant video network.

At the same time, the chain could face some challenges in trying to pull consumers away from their own mobile phones to use a company-operated device.

“The content angle makes a lot of sense in concept – create unique content experiences that can be tied to BWW’s brand,” said Mike McGuire, Santa Clara, CA-based vice president of research at Gartner for Marketing Leaders.

“I think the challenge is going to be getting consumers to put their own devices down and focus on the device at the table,” he said.

Mr. McGuire is not affiliated with Buffalo Wild Wings. He spoke based on his expertise on the subject.

Mobile ordering within the Buffalo Wild Wings’ tablet

Pay with mobile?
Buffalo Wild Wings also plans to test mobile point-of-sale technology to wait staff in 2014. The technology will let employees type in orders and accept payments while standing in front of a consumer.

A broader roll out of mobile POS for all stores is slated by the end of 2015.

Mobile payments and in-restaurant experiences are increasingly becoming more mainstream for brands, and Buffalo Wilds Wings’ efforts indicate that the fast casual and sports bar industry is well-suited for mobile.

The overarching goal behind the ramping up of mobile marketing efforts is to launch a loyalty program in 2015 that heavily plays up digital.

“Typical loyalty programs reward purchasing behavior — you buy something, you earn points and eventually you redeem the points for a reward,” Buffalo Wild Wings’ Mr. Patterson said.

“We believe that our loyalty program is different than this,” he said. “We want to build a loyalty program that takes a unique approach and gives us further ways to engage our guests and their experiences.”

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York