Buffalo Wild Wings opens next week as franchisee plans for growth

April 19, 2018

Todd LaHaise has a feeling that timing could be on his side as he prepares to open Buffalo Wild Wings next week at Dawley Farm Village.

“It’s long overdue,” he said of the store, which has been the talk of the east side for diners practically since it was announced several years ago that LaHaise had purchased land there.

“I think now is the time to open. It wasn’t our intent to wait this long; it just kind of happened, but I think it will play to our advantage.”

Interstate 90 will connect to Veterans Parkway next year, he noted.

Nearby Brandon and Harrisburg have added many more residents than when he originally looked at the site earlier this decade.

And Sioux Falls neighborhoods continue to fill in, with more rooftops coming to the east side every year.

“I really like the whole east side,” LaHaise said. “I like the topography and the scenery, and the residential growth is exciting.”

When Buffalo Wild Wings opens April 23, it will mark his 10th franchised location. Eleven and 12 will follow in Bismarck and Aberdeen.

For LaHaise, who took an early bet on Buffalo Wild Wings in the late 1990s, it has been a good fit. He has multiple locations among the top  performers companywide.

“The thing that separates us is the fact we have a big connection with the community when it comes to local sporting events and youth recreation,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s soccer or Little League or traveling hockey, we do a great job being much more than just a sports bar with chicken wings.”

Early investor

LaHaise grew up in North Dakota and originally gravitated toward the financial world. He worked at a bank and an accounting firm.

“But I didn’t last very long sitting behind a desk,” he said.

He bought a Subway franchise in 1989 and “graduated” to Buffalo Wild Wings about a decade later.

“We had bought a couple acres of property when the Fargodome was approved by the voters,” he said. “I wanted to find something that would complement events and entertainment at the dome, and we stumbled across a company called BW3.”

At the time, there were 48 locations.

“So we took a little bit of a risk,” he said. “It’s risky to be in the restaurant business to begin with, especially with the labor market.”

LaHaise’s first foray into Sioux Falls came in the 1990s. He and his wife Susan, a Wagner native, owned Candle Man at The Empire Mall. They were part-owners of the Dakota Splash bottled water business.

He acquired the Sioux Falls Buffalo Wild Wings near the Arena in 2007.

“We doubled the sales in the first three years,” he said. “We just worked really hard on our marketing and community involvement. We’re heavily involved in the Boys and Girls Club and do a lot of sports marketing with the Skyforce and Canaries.”

It’s still a nontraditional location for the chain, he said.

“In today’s world, that location probably wouldn’t even be approved because of the year-round demographics. It doesn’t fit the casual dining prototype,” he said. “But it’s still a very good store.”

If that one is very good, though, then the location on South Louise Avenue that opened in 2011 needs another descriptor.

“The store on Louise has been one of the top 20 stores in the country since 2011,” LaHaise said.

He also owns a building across the street, which is half-vacant but includes Puerto Vallarta. He likes the location long term, he said.

“We’re dabbling in a couple things, but we have our hands full in the next couple years with development in remodeling. I do believe in that location because of how well we’re doing across the street. It’s just a matter of time to find the right concept.”

Entering the east side

The new east-side store is the newest look for Buffalo Wild Wings. The bar is the central focal point, with jumbo televisions on three sides. There are TVs all around the restaurant, a dedicated area for carry-out and a patio that will open in the coming weeks.

It’s among the first new locations to open since the company was bought by Arby’s owner Roark Capital Group earlier this year.

“We’re trying to put the ‘wild’ back in Buffalo Wild Wings,” LaHaise said. “We’re excited about the new ownership. If they can do marketing and branding like they did for Arby’s, we’ll be able to rejuvenate the excitement of the concept.”

In Sioux Falls, though, customer response has continually been strong. The market draws more families than other places, he said, and he expects the east-side restaurant will do the same.

“I think we’ll do very strong lunch and dinner and weekends,” LaHaise said. Late night “might be a growth factor,” he said, but added the nearby Century movie theater and Harmodon Park will help.

“I think we’ll be a catalyst for the area,” he said. “We’re really excited about the location.”

He’s planning an additional retail building next to Buffalo Wild Wings that could include one or two businesses. One might be a concept he owns, but nothing is determined yet.

The new location is still accepting applications but has hired 110 people.

“They did an excellent job hiring,” LaHaise said. “With Sioux Falls not being a college town and with the labor market so tight, I’m very impressed with the people we hired.”

Raquel Blount, who handles leasing at Dawley Farm Village, agrees that the new restaurant will spark more activity for the east-side development.

“We’re very excited that they’re opening,” Blount said. “It just gives people one more reason to visit Dawley Farms and to stay longer once they’re here.”

The area continues to attract more retail interest, she said. Bath & Body Works opened last month. There’s an office park that has started marketing for tenants, and there’s been interest from a hotel.

“Dawley will just continue to keep building on the success that businesses already are seeing there,” Blount said. “This won’t be the last new dining opportunity you’ll see there by any means.”

Buffalo Wild Wings will be open daily starting at 11 a.m. and will close at midnight most days and 2 a.m. on the weekend.

“We stopped and started a couple times, but we’re going to open this thing right,” LaHaise said.

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Buffalo Wild Wings opens next week as franchisee plans for growth

When Buffalo Wild Wings opens next week at Dawley Farm Village, it marks the 10th location for franchisee Todd LaHaise — but definitely not the last.

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