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Red Robin’s Adult Education

Filed under Branding, Casual Dining Burgers, Test Market

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers announced positive results for 2012’s Q4, including a 1.4% same-store sales increase (1.1% of which came from check increase). It also provided an update on its ongoing efforts to make the chain more appealing to adults dining without children. This includes a shift this year to serving its burgers on china rather than paper-wrapped in a plastic basket.

More-adult, more-colorful spiral menus are one change being tested.

The chain also is putting new, higher-quality glassware in its bar area as it works to increase alcoholic-beverage sales. That category now accounts for 7.6% of sales; CEO Steve Carley told analysts that share could grow by .5% annually. Last year the chain hired Donna Ruch as its first “master mixologist.” The most visible result of that hire has been the chain’s adoption of beer-based based milk shakes.

New china and glassware are among several upgrades being tested as part of Red Robin’s “Brand Transformation” initiative. Changes in server uniforms, décor and food also are being looked at. A spiral menu with a more-adult look is in test in several markets and likely will roll out by year end. Carley said the tests are providing guidance in how to increase appeal to “adults looking for a night out” in addition to cementing its relationship with its core audience (families).

Red Robin confirmed that it is testing premium-price burgers, which reportedly include a Kobe beef burger. Asked why the chain would explore the high end of the price spectrum when the market continues to favor value pricing, SVP-CMO Denny Post said that “low-medium-high is a tried and true marketing technique.” She added, “Our guests have given us permission to go there.” New appetizers and desserts also are being tested.

While Red Robin determines its strategy and gets comfortable with new ad agency Vitro of San Diego, the chain will do no media advertising in the first quarter of 2013. But it is doing marketing, of course.  Red Robin is a major sponsor of this year’s Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival in Miami and the Feb. 22 Burger Bash hosted by Rachael Ray. Red Robin is sponsoring the inaugural Best of the Bash Award, which carries a $10,000 prize and a spot on Red Robin’s menu this year.

Luciana Page, a Florida International University student who won Red Robin’s Savory Scholar Contest, will serve her winning Korean Kalbi BBQ Burger at the Burger Bash. The burger’s Korean flavors include pickled cucumbers and cabbage, and a Korean BBQ glaze on the beef patty. The Korean flavors could become part of its Red’s Tavern Double “Style” burger platform, the chain says.

Red Robin continues to look at new restaurant prototypes and it opened its first mid-size unit in Q4. In 2013, Red Robin intends to open 20 new restaurants, with as many as five of them being its Burger Works smaller-size fast-casual concept.