Cheers - March/April 2016

Cheers is dedicated to delivering hospitality professionals the information, insights and data necessary to drive their beverage business by covering trends and innovations in operations, merchandising, service and training.

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Page 25 of 59 26 • March/April 2016 | | | | | | PROFILE | | | | | | ago, Red Robin did not even allow canned beers in its system. Burkle has also noticed a recent rise in retro beers, such as PBR and hard sodas such as Not Your Father's Root Beer. "We were the fi rst chain to really bring that brand national," she says, with the Root Brewski Float ($7.49) launched this past fall. BOOZY ROOTS Red Robin actually began as Sam's Tavern with a single location in Seattle in the 1940s; the name eventually changed to Sam's Red Robin, and the fi rst Red Robin restaurant opened in Seattle in 1969. In fact, the restaurant was originally known as Red Robin Burgers and Spirits Emporium and focused heavily on cocktails. But as the brand became more family friendly, the percentage of sales from alcohol dwindled from the mid teens to 5% about six years ago. The brand went so far away from its spirited roots that "some of my friends still say to me, 'Wait, Red Robin has a bar? '" says Post with a laugh. Post joined Red Robin in 2011 as senior vice president and chief marketing offi cer. She also served as the company's executive vice president and chief concept offi cer before she was named president in February. The company began stepping up its innovation behind the bar about fi ve years ago. It launched the Oktoberfest Beer Milkshake promotion with Sam Adams beer in 2012, which was followed by several beer-shake limited-time offerings. Red Robin's fi rst Can-Crafted Cocktails, served in a limited- edition, reusable beer-can cup, came out in 2013. One was made with Coors Light, ginger liqueur and lemonade, another with Blue Moon, Svedka Clementine vodka, orange juice and fresh lime juice. The Ameri-Can Mule ($6.99), was an LTO last summer made from Tito's vodka, Stirrings ginger liqueur, simple syrup, fresh lime juice and soda water and served in a copper can cup. A Divalicious Red Wine Shake, made with Little Black Dress Divalicious red wine, vodka, raspberry purée and vanilla soft-serve ice cream, debuted in 2014. Red Robin's drink menu also includes hard lemonades and Mai Tais, though Margaritas remain the best seller among all alcoholic beverages. Despite the beer rebranding, "We will not be taking our eye off the rest of our beverage program," says Burkle. Red Robin has a number of tests in progress to enhance the variety, innovation and consistent execution of the cocktail side of the beverage program, she adds. One adult beverage promotion strategy that Red Robin has moved away from is the traditional happy hour specials. The chain had offered a happy hour as of two years ago, but Post said that the daily discounts had become a continual challenge to manage. Red Robin now offers an all-day/everyday low-price strategy, Post says. The price of craft beers differs based on location and brew, but the chain aims to keep it affordable for guests, Post says. The price of a base draft, for instance, is about $3.50. GETTING THE WORD OUT Red Robin expects to complete the brand transformation, which began a few years ago, in 2016. The most important component of publicizing the restaurant's rebranding, Post says, will be signage. All Red Robins underwent renovations in the past 12 to 18 months so that they better highlight the beer aspect of the business. This includes new menus that highlight in bright yellow the brews that match each burger. And tabletop media emphasizes low drink prices along with photography of beers to increase awareness. The taps now change frequently among local and regional craft selections. Some locations of the chain have also begun printing out daily beer sheets. These sheets are not just updated menus that let customers know what's available any given day, but also another way to put beer front and center in the Red Robin experience. The brand has also been a sponsor for three years running of the Greater American Beer Festival. This three-day celebration of all things beer takes place in Denver, CO, near Red Robin's Greenwood Village, CO, headquarters. "It's a way for us to position ourselves with the brewers," Post explains. "We want to let them know that we are someone they can bring their ideas and innovations to, and that we are looking to pair well with them." Also, she adds, "It's just good to sponsor a great hometown event." Red Robin, which plans to open 25 new locations this year, is still "a burger-fi rst concept," Post stresses. "And we're not necessarily looking for people who are coming in just to buy an alcoholic beverage. What we want is for people to come in and have a great meal, and be able to have the right beverage to complement that meal." Known for its boozy shakes, Red Robin was the fi rst chain to bring Not Your Father's Root Beer hard soda national with its Root Brewski Float this past fall.

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