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Recap from Food On Demand 2022: Red Robin Gourmet Burgers

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In a session entitled, Operations & Strategy: Big Questions for Big Brands at the Food On Demand show, May 4-6 in Las Vegas, we heard from Jason Rusk, SVP, Transformation & Business Development for Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, a beloved casual dining brand founded in 1969, with more than 520 family-friendly restaurants across the United States and Canada, including those operating under franchise agreements. 

Here are my quick takeaways from Rusk as he articulately described what’s new and noteworthy at Red Robin:

An important goal for Rusk and his team: To make serving consumers easier to execute so that team members can deliver on a consistent experience, in fewer steps.  

Rusk also wants to help solve challenges together with franchisees, who make up about 20 percent of the mix, so that consumers really don’t know if it’s a corporate or franchise location.

By nesting Donatos Pizza inside Red Robin locations, the brand is covering the two most-consumed foods in the USA today: pizza and burgers. Rusk noted the natural fit with Red Robin’s brand positioning, while offering high-brand affinity, and the ability to reach more consumers. Donatos lives both dine-in and off-prem, with its own digital storefront. Red Robin may not pop up when looking for pizza on the marketplaces, but Donatos will. 

Rusk revealed they are testing MrBeast Burger, which operates out of existing restaurant kitchens, allowing operators to add a new source of revenue without impacting the operation. Rusk is looking to grab customers with the viral brand “as they grow up” or outgrow family-friendly Red Robin. 

Pointing out that restaurant buildings were not designed for the volume of off-prem business they’re doing, Rusk is looking at solutions to alleviate to-go orders sitting in a window. By creating dedicated spaces (he mentioned the lobby, or close to the front door) to handle volume, they can reduce steps and get food out faster.

Rusk is keenly curious about how to solve for 70 percent dining and 30 percent off-prem sales colliding in the kitchen, as well as increasing accuracy when it comes to quote times. “We want to know what’s happening in the KDS and provide transparency to consumers,” he said.

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