Buffalo Wild Wings Deals With Touchy Racial Crisis

Thom Weidlich 11.14.19


Buffalo Wild Wings recently had a nasty racial incident that it handled fairly well. Its approach showed the importance of not getting ahead of yourself — of communicating only the facts you know at the moment.

On Saturday, Oct. 26, a group of 18 African Americans went to a Buffalo Wild Wings in Naperville, Illinois, to celebrate a child’s birthday. The manager reportedly asked one member of the group their race and then asked them to move; a regular customer objected to sitting next to African Americans. The group refused and posted about it on social media, which understandably caused a furor.

The story apparently evolved slowly in the press. Naperville Sun reporter Suzanne Baker wrote that she asked for a comment from a restaurant manager on Friday, Nov. 1, and was told to contact corporate communications.

“We take this alleged incident very seriously and are conducting a thorough, internal investigation,” Buffalo Wild Wings spokesperson Claire Kudlata said in an email to the newspaper. “We’re in direct communication with the guest to understand their account of what happened and to offer our deepest apologies for any unacceptable behavior.”

On Monday, Nov. 4, the casual-dining company, based outside Atlanta, issued a statement announcing it had fired the employees involved (later reported to be two) and banned the customer from its restaurants for life. It also said it had apologized to the families and would conduct sensitivity training. “Buffalo Wild Wings values an inclusive environment and has zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind,” it said.


We take this alleged incident very seriously and are conducting a thorough, internal investigation.

— Buffalo Wild Wings spokesperson Claire Kudlata

So, the company first communicated it was probing the situation without coming to too-hasty conclusions. It even referred to the “alleged incident” — wording we’re sure prompted some debate in the crisis command center. Compare that to the Houston Astros’ recent bad handling of a crisis that included (wrongly) taking an executive at his word.

Buffalo Wild Wings then took action, noted in the second statement, by firing the employees and banning the customer. And it apologized to the families and said it would up its training.

Two days later, it put out another release announcing that company President Lyle Tick had visited with community leaders, team leaders, and others in Naperville. Going beyond the typical statement, it wrote: “The families involved brought up several great recommendations and requests in their press conference yesterday, all of which we can positively address.”

Another positive: Buffalo Wild Wings wisely cut off its social-media activity while the incident caused so much anger.

But the company isn’t out of the woods yet. On Tuesday, civil-rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the families affected by the incident called for it to do more to improve diversity among its executive ranks and franchisees. They are scheduled to meet with Tick on Monday.

Photo Credit: Buffalo Wild Wings

This is an abridged version of an article that appeared today on the CrisisResponsePro paid subscription portal. (CrisisResponsePro subscribers can access the full version by clicking here. ID and password are required.) To take advantage of all of the content, data, and collaborative resources CrisisResponsePro has to offer, contact us at info@crisisresponsepro.com.

Related:Galveston Police Quickly Address Racial Crisis