Red Robin was the biggest gainer this year, up an impressive 8 percent to 79. Menu innovation and investments in off-premises appear to be paying off. Off-premises sales increased 40 percent, year-over-year, in the first quarter. It averaged 9.4 percent of sales mix in Q1 as Red Robin looks to hit double-digits in the near future. Third-party delivery is also live in about 70 percent of Red Robin stores
ACSI’s data showed improvement across the customer experience, from beverage and food quality to staff courtesy and service speed.
READ MORE: Red Robin blazes its own path to long-term success.
Same-store sales fell 0.9 percent, year-over-year, in the first quarter, and total revenues reported $421.5 million—an increase of 0.2 percent. Red Robin’s comps fell despite traffic climbing 0.1 percent. The reason being that average guest check declined 1 percent—an outlier across the industry, both in full and limited service: Black Box data showed a 3 percent average check hike this past quarter. But there was a reason.
“We've gained 400 basis points of relative affordability versus the rest of the space, which we think actually strengthens our position as an affordable alternative for the families or the people that will frequent our business in the future,” Guy Constant, chief financial officer of the 571-unit burger chain, said in a May 22 conference call.
Another significant jumper this year was Darden’s LongHorn Steakhouse, which gained 5 percent. LongHorn has followed suit with Darden’s “brilliant with the basics” operating strategy that proved so successful with Olive Garden. LongHorn has trimmed its menu about 30 percent in an effort to bolster execution and simplify operations. LongHorn, which Darden CEO Gene Lee recently said would be headed to California in the next 24 months, reported same-store sales of 2.4 percent in the fourth quarter, and 2.7 percent for the year.
TGI Fridays, which is undergoing a menu overhaul, rose 4 percent to 79.