Scandals That Buffalo Wild Wings Can Never Live Down

Buffalo Wild Wings has been a haven for sports lover and chicken wing enthusiasts since its inception in 1982. It started as a strip mall wing joint, then called Buffalo Wild Wings & Weck, in Columbus, Ohio — its two founders being some guys from New York who missed New York (specifically Buffalo)-style hot wings. It's since grown so big, it hosts a location in every state, and other countries all over the world. Sports fans across the world even gather at B-Dubs to watch their favorite teams play on one of the gazillion flat screen TVs the chain proudly mounts in each restaurant.

But the growth and success of Buffalo Wild Wings hasn't come without a side of drama. The wings can be spicy, and so can the headlines, so we've recapped the biggest scandals in BWW history, and weigh in on whether the country's most famous chicken 'n ranch slinger will ever fully recover.

A group of patrons sued Buffalo Wild Wings due to mistreatment at a California location

In January of 2015, four black men who had attempted to dine at a Buffalo Wild Wings in Palmdale, California sued the company for alleged mistreatment based on the color of their skin. According to their official complaint, the server who was assigned to wait on their table asked the men to hand over a credit card prior to receiving their initial drinks order, or pay ahead of time. The men supposedly asked nearby white customers if they'd been subject to the same protocol and none of them had. 

When they went to the restaurant's manager, he claimed it was the policy for everyone until the black men explained that all the other customers confirmed they had not received the same treatment. The manager tried to smooth things over with gift cards but that did not stop the pending lawsuit that then got slapped on the brand. The case was settled in September of 2015 but it is yet another blatant instance of discrimination at a chain that claims to offer exceptional customer service.

Buffalo Wild Wings gave one of its biggest investors erroneous sales data

Don't you dare mess with your U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission updates, or so says the fancy hedge fund firm Marcato Capital Management. In 2017, Buffalo Wild Wings apparently led investors astray in its report about company shares. While B-Dubs claimed to have outperformed the S&P Restaurant Index, Marcato snapped back that, over the course of the previous five-year period, the company had actually underperformed by over 60 percent

Mick Mcguire, the managing partner of Marcato, had this to say about the BWW proxy materials at the time of the material filing: "This kind of sloppy, self-serving 'analysis,' which has gone uncorrected for three full days, including a trading day, is emblematic of what we believe is management's careless approach to assessment of shareholder value. This is an astronomical error and the fact that we need to point it out should make all shareholders question many arguments management has put forth." Ouch. Since Marcato owned 6.1 percent of the chain's stock at the time, this was a bit of a low blow, but likely warranted. And Marcato clearly had some foresight since in 2019, it continued to see its investment suffer through lackluster sales.

Buffalo Wild Wings canceled one of customers' favorite weekday deals

You can take away a lot from Americans, and they'll remain resilient, but remove Half Price Wing Tuesday and you're asking for a severely wounded customer base. In 2017, Buffalo Wild Wings retracted one of its most beloved deals — half-price chicken wings on Tuesdays. Instead, the chain started offering "buy one, get one free" on boneless wings, which BWW claimed outsold bone-in wings in 2016, despite the popularity of Half Price Wing Tuesday.

Additionally, the cost of bone-in wings was so high at the time, the company asserted that even though the deal brought in patrons in droves, it was still expensive to maintain. As of this publishing date, the restaurant now offers a BOGO deal on small orders of traditional bone-in wings (again) on Tuesdays but it doesn't have as much of a diehard following (there's even a Reddit thread dedicated to trashing it) as the original Half Price Wing Tuesday (RIP).

Buffalo Wild Wings faced a lawsuit for multiple counts of discrimination at a Kansas City location

In 2019, a former Buffalo Wild Wings cook sued the company (and its parent company, Inspire Brands) for alleged discrimination based on race, age, and disability. The cook, Gary Lovelace, a black man in his 50s, filed the suit after being fired for reporting what he dubbed a "a racially hostile work environment."

Lovelace claims he was mistreated by management, who continuously made "derogatory comments" about his race and African Americans in general, as well as his age, while insisting he perform tasks outside his job description. Lovelace also purports that the management essentially condoned the behavior of servers who refused to wait on black patrons, saying they did not tip as well. At one point, Lovelace was regularly late to his shift due to caring for a sick family member and told to call in sick when he was going to be late, which he alleges was not the same protocol for his younger coworkers.

The lawsuit is still ongoing but a lot of the details of mistreatment described by the plaintiff are very unsettling and certainly not a good look for Buffalo Wild Wings at large.

The Buffalo Wild Wings Twitter account accidentally took a pot shot at the restaurant chain's hometown

You always gotta check yourself before you wreck yourself on Twitter, Buffalo Wild Wings. In the spring of 2019, the Columbus Blue Jackets hockey team upset the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Since Tampa Bay was such a stellar team, this was a really big deal. Also of note, Columbus' beloved Ohio State had just lost its coach, Urban Meyer, earlier in the year. So when Buffalo Wild Wings tweeted, in response to the hockey team's win, "Congrats on your first ever series win, Columbus! That's gotta take the sting out of Urban leaving," it was intended to be a bit of a Columbus roast but was unintentionally a dig at the hometown of Buffalo Wild Wings. The restaurant opened its first location in Columbus, Ohio in 1982. 

We're sure whoever was running the Twitter account at the time got a real talkin' to regarding their knowledge of the history of the brand that was paying them.

A live rat fell from the ceiling onto a customer's table at a Buffalo Wild Wings in Los Angeles

Okay, if Buffalo Wild Wings can live this one down, they are truly a miracle worker disguised as a chicken chain. In June of 2019, a woman was watching Women's World Cup soccer at a Buffalo Wild Wings in Los Angeles, California when (we can't even believe we're writing this), a live rat fell from the ceiling smack onto the menu on her table. Alisha Norman, the customer who had to undergo this trauma, was visiting from Texas and told NBC 4 News, "I knew the rat was going to be injured because it hit like a Mack truck." She also reported that a manager came over and, "...took two plates and then they just picked it up and dumped it in a was terrible. It was disgusting." Yep, that definitely tracks as to how we'd respond to an animal landing atop our table.

A rep from Buffalo Wild Wings claimed the incident was due to construction happening at this particular restaurant's location and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed that BWW followed all the necessary protocols when it closed after the rat dropping (pun intended) to make sure there was not another "imminent health hazard" pending. 

Yes, we'll take a basket of boneless wings with a side of live rodent, please?

An employee at Buffalo Wild Wings died tragically from inhaling noxious fumes

A manager at a Buffalo Wild Wings in Burlington, Massachusetts met a very sad, very untimely death in the fall of 2019. The manager was simply trying to come to the aid of an employee who had attempted to start cleaning procedures at the restaurant.

According to a report in TIME Magazine, the Buffalo Wild Wings employee spread Super 8, sodium hypochlorite cleaner, onto the floor, however was unaware that another chemical cleaning liquid, an acid-based cleaner, had spilled there prior to when he or she started scrubbing. The chemical reaction that resulted from mixing the two agents was the emission of poisonous, chlorine gas. The crew member immediately left the scene due to reportedly experiencing burning eyes and an unbearable stench. The manager stepped in with an attempt to disperse the liquid with a squeegee but the exposure made him, in turn, very sick. He was taken to the hospital and did not survive.

What's even more upsetting is that the man who died had a newborn son at home. Two patrons and 11 other workers had to go to the hospital also after inhaling the toxic fumes. Buffalo Wild Wings corporate office stated that they were "shocked and saddened" and working with local authorities and the franchise owner. Even though the tragedy was tied to just this one location, it's still a very tarnishing event in the annals of BWW history.

An Illinois Buffalo Wild Wings was accused of condoning racist behavior by a patron

At the end of 2019, a really disturbing occurrence put a Naperville, Illinois Buffalo Wild Wings in the spotlight. A diner allegedly asked someone on the BWW staff if a group of multiracial customers could be moved to a different location than their reserved table in the restaurant because the diner supposedly, "did not want to sit by black people," according to ABC 7 News. The group was coming from a day of kids' basketball games, and was just trying to enjoy some hot wings, without a side of straight-up racism.

Not only has the customer in question been 86'd from all Buffalo Wild Wings locations, but the employees (a manager and supervisor) who granted the racist request were fired. One of the people who were with the group that was asked to move reported that the BWW workers even went so far as to then sit with the customer and seemingly to commiserate with him about his racist request. Buffalo Wild Wings supposedly instigated diversity and sensitivity training for all its Chicago outposts after the incident. Still, it doesn't reflect well at all on the company for having employees behave this way in the first place.

The social medial team for Buffalo Wild Wings really upset Houston Astros fans

It all started as an innocent tweet (the famous last words of many, many remorseful Twitter users). In early 2020, the Twitter operators for Buffalo Wild Wings caused a bit of a stink among Houston Astros mega fans by implying that the Houston Astros baseballers weren't adequately punished for a cheating incident that plagued the team. In the tweet, @BWWings simply quoted another tweet reporting the news of a UK football team being punished for similar transgressions writing, "THAT'S how you punish a team that cheats."

Astros fans got really defensive, really fast, and not long after the hashtag #boycottBWW started making the rounds. Of course, BWW retracted with a follow-up tweet, apologizing for the tweet and applauding the Houstonians for their "roast of Buffalo Wild Wings." Despite the apology, we're not sure BWW will ever live this one down, especially when there are so many chicken wing establishments competing to lure sports fans.

A Buffalo Wild Wings in Miami failed its health inspection in a pretty epic way

If you're a die-hard BWW fan, you might want to skip this one — it could forever tarnish your view of the boneless wing and football-viewing haven. According to the Miami Herald, a West Palm Beach Buffalo Wild Wings failed its health inspection by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation in a pretty intense way in March of 2020. The inspection reportedly listed a whopping 51 flies in the restaurant's kitchen, 12 of which were spotted "landing on clean utensils hanging on the wall in the dishwasher room located in the kitchen." You're definitely gonna need a beer (or several) to wash down that unsavory amount of yuck.

The inspectors also slapped the Buffalo Wild Wings location with a "Stop Sales" because some condiments/toppings, namely cheese, lettuce, salsa, tomatoes, and lettuce, were "unsafely warm." Yikes! The only thing we want too hot at Buffalo Wild Wings is our basket of chicken, thank you very much.

Buffalo Wild Wings had to renege on a promotional March Madness sleepover in one of its Chicago locations

In the first week of March in 2020, Buffalo Wild Wings announced its first ever "BnB-Dubs," a sleepover opportunity for two March Madness mega fans at a Buffalo Wild Wings in Chicago's Lincoln Park. BWW was trying to promote its new brisket menu items and pretzel knots, as well as tout its status as The Destination to watch the March Madness basketball tournament. Per the press release, "Fans can enter to win a weekend stay in BnB-Dubs by shooting a video showcasing why they're the ultimate March Madness fan and post it to Twitter or Instagram with #bnbdubscontest and tagging a friend." The two winners could bring one friend each, and all were to receive custom robes and sliders during their stay.

Well, as it turns out, the month that a highly contagious virus starts sending an entire country into lockdown is NOT the best week to offer a spend-the-night party at your restaurant for strangers. On March 17th, Buffalo Wild Wings had to retract its Air BnB offer. Its parent company, Inspire Brands, had regulated all of its restaurants to take-out orders only, due to restrictions going into place for COVID-19. While obviously, no one expected the higher-ups at BWW to predict a global pandemic, it's a little cringeworthy to even consider sleeping in a chain restaurant just for some extra flat screen TV and buffalo wing access now.