She credited some of the in-house issues to complacency brought on by high Net Promoter Scores. These remained stellar, and then took a surge in guest complaints.
Frankly speaking, Post said guests were not receiving the attention they felt they deserved. At least in respect to those who weren’t getting seated on time.
“We have seen both our wait times and the number of people walking away without being seated increase year-over-year. Our operations teams are now fully woke to the issues, and they have narrowed their focus to improving those ticket times and table turns day-by-day, week-by-week through year-end. We will be measuring progress weekly,” she said. Red Robin is planning targeted investments in peak hour labor to capture the unmet demand in its restaurant lobbies.
There are other concerns as well. One is the performance of mall locations, which constitute about 16 percent of Red Robin’s base, and are currently “disproportionately represented in the bottom performers on dine-in traffic and off-premise sales,” Post said. There’s no real end in sight for the volatile performance, either. She said Red Robin will emphasize catering and delivery at those locations to generate more reliable returns. “We are also moving immediately to capture our share of any on-site traffic with improved signage and site-specific offers and deals,” she added.
Red Robin took a 2.4 percent decrease in menu mix, offset by a 0.5 percent increase in pricing in the quarter. This speaks to another adjustment Post said the brand needs to make in order to win one of its most important pillars: affordable value. Red Robin has advertised one or more Tavern Double burgers at $6.99 for nearly two years, which has been the key driver in its outperformance versus competition on traffic, Post said. The mix expanded from 6 percent two years ago to more than 15 percent today.
“It is important for us to have a low price of entry burger line, but the current offer with five choices of Tavern Double burgers at $6.99 went too far, and appears to have traded more guests down than it drove incremental traffic,” Post said. In response, Red Robin will add new Tavern Double burgers less often, she said, and likely remove another when it does so. It will also vary pricing on its Tavern lineup from now on to improve per person average.