Activist investor Mick McGuire has taken another shot at Buffalo Wild Wings’ management, this time making his case directly to the restaurant company’s franchisees.
McGuire’s Marcato Capital Management, which is pushing for major strategic changes at Wild Wings, released on Tuesday an “open letter” to franchisees and unveiled a franchisee website dubbed “WinningAtWildWings.com.”
San Francisco-based Marcato last summer bought a 5.2 percent stake in Golden Valley-based Buffalo Wild Wings, and has since pushed the company to refranchise the bulk of its company-owned restaurants.
“Over the life of our investment, we have observed a lack of urgency among the [Wild Wings] Board and senior executives that is crucial in today’s difficult operating environment,” Marcato said in the letter to franchisees. “We have sought to share our views with the company’s Board of Directors and management team. In many cases, our overtures have been ignored.”
In a statement on Tuesday, Wild Wings said it “welcomes the ideas of our shareholders, and we will continue to consider suggestions that advance our goal of enhancing shareholder value. Buffalo Wild Wings includes perspectives from its franchisees as it develops programs and initiatives, resulting in strong franchise relations.”
About half of Buffalo Wild Wings’ roughly 1,200 restaurants are owned by the company; the rest are owned by franchisees. McGuire wants to change that mix to 90 percent franchisee-owned, arguing it would reduce Wild Wings’ costs and risks.
The activist challenge comes at a time of weakness in the casual dining industry, including at Buffalo Wild Wings. While it has been one of the most successful restaurant chains over the past decade, Wild Wings’ sales growth has slowed over the past year or so.
Its stock closed Tuesday at $169.55, down $1.30.