12 Sauced-Up Facts About Buffalo Wild Wings

Mike Mozart via Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Mike Mozart via Flickr // CC BY 2.0 / Mike Mozart via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

What began, appropriately, with two wing-obsessed dudes back in 1982 has become a global empire. Buffalo Wild Wings, with its sliding scale of sauces and more screens per location than NASA Mission Control, has over 1,000 restaurants in the U.S. and a growing number abroad delivering the oh-so-American gift of sauce-slathered chicken parts. B-Dubs, as it’s affectionately known, is truly a modern-day success story. Here for your consumption is a bucket of piping-hot facts—blue cheese dressing and carrot sticks not included.

1. It all started in…Ohio.

Buffalo wings may have originated in New York state, but it was in the nation’s heartland that Buffalo Wild Wings took flight. Two Buffalo natives living in Columbus, Jim Disbrow and Scott Lowery, missed their beloved hometown wings and couldn’t find a restaurant that served them. So they built their own.

2. It was originally called “Buffalo Wild Wings and Weck.”

Nick Gray via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

This is the source of the company’s still-popular nickname, BW3. But what the heck is a weck? If you’re from western New York, you likely know the answer: It’s a thin-sliced roast beef sandwich served with horseradish and au jus, and named for the roll (kummelweck) that holds it all together. Apparently it’s delicious, but wasn’t popular enough to keep on the menu.

3. One of the co-founders was huge in the figure skating world.

Buffalo wings made Jim Disbrow rich, but his true passion was figure skating. He won national medals competing in his teenage years, was named an alternate for the 1968 U.S. Olympic team, and eventually became a renowned coach and judge. He was also chairman of the U.S. Figure Skating Association’s International Committee during the Kerrigan-Harding dust-up, and served as the association’s president from 1998 to 2000.  

4. The TVs originally played music videos.

Kate Sumblervia Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

These days the chain is all about sports, sports and more sports. But back in the day, you could down a platter of hot wings while watching Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf.”

5. It grew by placing its restaurants near college campuses.

Seems like a no brainer, right? The company smartly figured that college students would go wild for cheap wings by the bucketful. It placed stores near campuses throughout the Midwest, then expanded its appeal to include families and wing nuts everywhere.

6. They have a gallery of retired sauces.

MjZ Photography via Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Not every sauce that the company’s mad scientists cook up has staying power. Cast-offs include everything from the probably-too-sweet (Salted Caramel BBQ) to the probably-too-spicy (Wicked Wasabi) to the definitely-too-spicy (Ghost Pepper).

7. They thrived during the recession.

Two words: Cheap entertainment. While the rest of the industry hemorrhaged money, Buffalo Wild Wings actually turned a profit by marketing itself as the place to watch the big game.

8. They sell nearly two billion wings every year.

navarrd via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

That’s more than one billion boneless and 768 million traditional wings. During this year’s March Madness, their marquee event, they sold more than 100 million.

9. Now, you can order your 'Asian Zing' Wings in Asia.

In addition to doubling its store count since 2008, the company has taken buffalo wings abroad. There are locations in Mexico and Dubai, and this year B-Dubs launched in the Philippines.

10. Their current CEO kind of fell into the job.

Back in 1996, the company hired a new CEO to run its then 30-restaurant outfit. The guy failed to show up on his first day, so one of the directors turned to CFO Sally Smith and said: “I guess you’re going to have to do it.” More than twenty years later, she’s still at the helm.

11. There’s a Blazin’ Wings Challenge

If you’re not afraid of a little heat and absolutely covet free T-shirts, you can take the Blazin’ Challenge, which involves eating 12 of the company’s hottest wings in under 6 minutes. The rules include no drinks, no dipping sauces, and no puking. And no crying. There's no crying in wing eating.

12. They’re hiring people to change the channels.

In addition to turning on the big game, the “guest experience captains,” which the company began hiring during this year’s March Madness, are also tasked with chatting up customers and promoting the brand.