College students love spicy Buffalo wings.
That's the basic strategy behind a new restaurant in Lawrence Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar, 1012 Mass.
The business, one of the newest outlets in a chain of 150 franchise- and corporate-owned Buffalo Wild Wings locations nationwide, opened Jan. 20. The restaurant makes no bones about the fact it caters to the college crowd and revels in the seasonal cycle of sporting events, like March Madness.
"Our core business is college students. We like to locate our stores near the main drags of college towns, like Massachusetts Street in Lawrence," said Koobie Kommer, a manager at Buffalo Wild Wings.
Wings, brews, late nights
The new downtown restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. seven days a week. It has a full bar, with 20 beers on tap and from 32 to 35 kinds of bottled beer.
Best of all, the kitchen is open until closing time. So if it's 1:30 a.m. and you're hungry, you can still order up some wings.
A word about those wings: You can get them in quantities from six ($3.19) to 100 ($35.99) and in any one of 12 signature sauces from a no-heat Teriyaki to the all-heat Blazin' variety.
The Lawrence restaurant is the fourth and newest Buffalo Wild Wings location in Kansas. The others are in Overland Park, Olathe and Wichita.
Headquartered in Minneapolis, Minn., the company started in 1981 with a single restaurant Buffalo Wild Wings & Weck in Kent, Ohio. (A weck is a fresh-baked seeded bun made for sandwiches.)
More than wings
Fans of the early restaurants dubbed them "BW-3" for short. In recent times, the "Weck" has been dropped from the company name because so few people seem to know what one is.
The restaurants have much to offer aside from their wings, according to Kommer and manager Michael Kricsfeld.
"It's our atmosphere, too. We have 24 TVs and four big screens. We have every major cable and satellite TV sports package, and we can carry up to six games at any time," Kommer said.
There are banks of coin-operated video games, as well as the popular Nationwide Trivia Network, a contest in which patrons can play against each other or against people playing across the country.
There also are plenty of other choices aside from wings, such as a wide range of sandwiches, salads, quesadillas, nachos, appetizers and side dishes.
Business so far is strong, and the 257-seat restaurant is about 15 percent above its sales projections.
"KU basketball game days and weekends are excellent. We just have to worry about picking up the business at lunchtime and during the week," Kommer said.
March is historically the company's best month for sales, thanks to customer enthusiasm for beer and wings during college basketball's March Madness.
Super Bowls aren't bad for business, either.
"We sold around 4,000 chicken wings (for take-out) in a three-hour period on Super Bowl Sunday," Kommer said.
Other particularly busy times are Tuesdays, when wings are 30 cents apiece, and Wednesdays, when chicken legs sell for 50 cents each.
The restaurant's 12 sauces generate some extra business of their own. Customers like to buy bottles of the sauces to take home and cook with. They cost $3.79 per bottle, and some restaurants sell from 400 to 500 bottles each week, according to Kommer.
The chicken wings, dipped in your favorite sauce, are terribly addictive. And the sports-soaked atmosphere is awfully fun, too.
"It's very hard to work here and be on a diet, or to try to keep your eyes off the TV during a good game," Kommer admitted.