Under his leadership, the 520-unit chain has executed its Donatos Pizza strategy and mightily improved its digital presence with a new loyalty program, apps, website, and virtual brands.
Red Robin announced Wednesday that CEO Paul Murphy will retire at the end of the year when his contract expires.
He will work with the company to find a successor and will remain as a special adviser until March 2023 to ensure a smooth transition. Murphy joined Red Robin in October 2019 after serving as executive chairman of Noodles & Company, CEO of Del Taco, and president, CEO, and board director of Einstein Noah Restaurant Group.
“It has been my pleasure and privilege to lead this iconic brand," Murphy said in a statement. "While the events experienced during my tenure were certainly not what I had anticipated when I accepted the role in 2019, I’m proud of the work that we have done in strengthening the core of the brand and positioning it for the future. I look forward to working with the Board to identify, recruit, and integrate my successor and ensure a seamless changeover in leadership. Red Robin has a bright future ahead.”
At the time of his hire, Murphy told the board of directors that he intended to serve three years as a transitory leader and improve operations. Under his tenure, Red Robin has most notably spent the past few years folding Donatos Pizza into menus nationwide. In Q1, roughly 200 restaurants sold the product, and those stores saw same-store sales rise by more than 5 percent compared to units that don't have it yet. Additionally, Donatos has proven to increase guest check by $10 and raise frequency among loyalty members. Red Robin hopes to add pizza to 50 locations this year and another 150 in 2023.
In terms of development, the casual-dining chain is leveraging a new prototype featuring design enhancements that improve dine-in, off-premises, and curbside pickup, while optimizing kitchen layout. Red Robin also launched multiple virtual brands, rolled out iOS and Android mobile apps, unveiled an upgraded website, and updated its loyalty program. Off-premises sales are still more than double what they were prior to the pandemic, and the loyalty program has nearly 11 million members, an increase of 300,000 since the end of 2021.
The 520-unit chain's comps grew 3.9 percent in Q1 versus 2019, which is the first positive quarter against pre-COVID figures.
“We appreciate Paul’s leadership during this turbulent period and all the work that he and his team have done to navigate the storm of the last three years," board chair Dave Pace said in a statement. "As was his intention when he joined Red Robin, Paul has stabilized the foundation and positioned the brand for renewed growth going forward. On behalf of the Board, I want to thank Paul for his contributions to Red Robin.”