The Buffalo Spot Aims to be ‘Disruptor’ in Wings Category
Chicken wings are hot, the category is explosive and concepts large and small keep growing locations and sales breakneck pace. The Buffalo Spot is somewhere in that mix, but as wing prices rise with the proverbial tide, the concept is putting everything wing-lovers want at center plate, without the actual wing.
Founder and CEO Ivan Flores said the LA-founded concept is all about “Buffalo Fries.”
“We’ve created a niche; we created our own category. Our product is a disruptor, nobody has really had it on the menu. When you’re first you’re the disruptor,” said Flores. “And we hand bread, cut and cook to order, that’s a big difference. We take pride in the product.”
What is it? Basically, it’s some crispy, saucy and delicious fried chicken bits on a bed of French fries. It’s an indulgent and eye-catching item that makes up 75 percent of sales for the concept. The demand from consumers has pushed the concept to 30 locations, mostly franchised, with many more in the pipeline.
“We have six or seven under construction now, looking to do 10 a year,” said Flores.
He said an especially encouraging part of that growth is whether the franchisee is a small-operator or a large, diversified operator, they’re looking to build additional locations. That has Flores excited, but he said they strike a balance between growth and quality.
“A lot of our growth has been organic, were not looking to be the biggest we want to do it right,” said Flores. “To me, it’s not about the check, honestly bringing in the wrong franchisee can really hurt the system. Were content doing 10 to 15 a year.”
He said that was a critical lesson for his first franchised concept, learned through “hard knocks.”
“I’m not going to say we had the best franchisees at the beginning but I did a lot of leaning and surrounded myself with great people,” said Flores. “In five years, we’re hoping to be about 150 stores. Honestly this is the brand I want to grow until I’m old.”
As it does, he said he’s doing everything to keep the overhead costs very low. That starts with construction. The first location is a 900-square-foot box, so efficient operations is in the very DNA of the brand and being open with contractors helps a lot.
“Starting with construction, we don’t want to create an expensive buildout. We want to create a well-oiled machine. We don’t want to do gold doorknobs, that’s how we same money for ourselves and our franchisees,” said Flores. “You got to get a couple different bids, we work with a couple contractors, follow our system we show other contractors what we’re paying elsewhere. We’re very transparent about out bidding process.”
Keeping that box efficient and affordable fits right into the sales makeup too, 10 percent is delivery and 60 percent is pickup and sales come mostly during lunch and dinner hours, though a plate of fried chicken and fries makes a great late-night business too for the locations open until midnight on weekends.
The menu is just as tight as the location. Flores said there are Buffalo Fries, wings (boneless and bone-in), tenders and breadsticks. The saucy chicken bits can also go on a salad platform instead of fries or wrapped altogether in a California style burrito. Then there’s milkshakes and that’s it, almost all the menu comes out of the fryer keeping things dead simple and that’s how Flores likes it.
“We do play with new flavors, but we just roll them out as LTOs, we don’t want to mess with our main menu. It just messes with the staff and a simple menu is all about quality,” said Flores. “We haven’t had any more to the main menu since we opened, most of these other flavors are just trends and they go away naturally.”
He said through the company’s partnership with Pepsi meant a Hot Cheetos flavor as an LTO that is doing well, but is set to come off the menu soon to make room for the next fun thing to market.
The Buffalo Spot start-up investment ranges from $237,400 to $524,025 including a $40,000 franchise fee. According to the 2019 FDD, the average unit volume sits at $895,000 with an average of $307,000 in costs of goods.