Red Robin launched the $6.99 new Haystack Tavern burger and bottomless fries combination at the beginning of Q4. Red Robin wants to take advantage of this value combo as a way to draw in customers. Compared to other burgers at different chains where a combo like this is around $11.68, Red Robin’s $6.99 and $8.99 burger lineup is an attractive deal, Post said.
“Also at the beginning of the fourth quarter, we took three other popular Tavern; the Smokey Jack, Taco, and Cowboy Ranch to $7.99 with a new menu layout, which gave us the chance to take a modest overall 1 percent price increase. The new layout also features our appetizer and beverage lineups more prominently,” Post said.
The company also hopes to draw customers into the restaurants by continuing $1.99 kids meals on Wednesday nights. Post said this deal makes it possible for parents to enjoy a night out with a family without breaking the bank.
While dinner traffic hasn’t been doing well, Red Robin continues to improve its lunch business. A new Monday to Thursday lunchtime bundle featuring any gourmet burger, bottomless fries, broccoli, or salad, and a bottomless drink for $10 was introduced into restaurants last week.
“Red Robin has long been the envy of other full-service operators for our 50/50 lunch and dinner mix and we are committed to hold that daypart advantage,” Post said. “This is a hot offer on our most popular burgers and the perfect choice for a quick lunch during the week.”
The new changes in marketing and improving service strategy will lay a foundation for future growth and improved sales within the company, Post said, but the results will be seen in the future, not by the end of the year.
“We firmly believe we can get back to where we all want and need to be, although how long that will take is not entirely clear,” Post said. “As it stands, we do not expect to see meaningful same-store sales trend improvement in Q4 over Q3.”
As far as growth with new units, the company opened its last new unit during the third quarter for some time. The company is shifting its focus to refranchising and developing a new prototype throughout 2019 as it halts growth. Red Robin is in the middle of a refranchising initiative to help improve overall dine-in guest experience.
“Our current effort is centered on markets that include approximately 100 existing Red Robin locations and that represents significant development opportunity for a potential partner,” Constant said. “This effort, when complete, would take our franchise mix up to 30 percent.”
Red Robin is currently exploring ways to incorporate more technology within the restaurants. Diners can find Robin, an electronic dining companion that allows guests to play games and pay when they’re ready to go, on tables across the company. Servers have been trained on new point-of-sale systems and the company is looking to put more technology into the hands of servers moving into 2019.
The new technology will likely improve the speed of service and attentiveness to guests, and in the end, help the brand improve table turnover, wait times, and overall guest experience.
“We really feel like there's an opportunity for us to invest on the technology side,” Constant said. “A lot of that will be a lot more guest facing now that we've done that foundational work that we've done in 2018. I would expect in 2019 we'll have a significant focus on technology that the guests will be able to see. And so, while that certainly won't come close to what we've spent on new unit growth.”
“Over time, we expect to put even more of the dining experience in the guests' control through innovative new digital offerings on the development roadmap,” Post added.