An innovative menu release can renew a customer’s enthusiasm for a restaurant chain. Other times when big chains are a flopcustomers flock to the adage, “Keep what you’re good at.”
Red Robin, however, has found a sweet spot with innovation. The channel has been on a winning streak with hot new releases getting more attention than ever.
The chain’s last three limited-time offers (LTOs) have broken sales records, according to CEO Paul Murphy, who spoke about it in a recent earnings call. Thanks to a rock-solid new strategy, these menu additions were among the most popular in the company’s history.
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The casual eatery teamed up with BBQ sauce brand Whiskey River in March to create the Barbecue in the backyard of Whiskey River menu range. Items included the Smokehouse Brisket Burger and Tequila Sunset Cocktail, as well as a Pineapple Upside-Down Cake Milkshake, some of which sold at record highs for the chain.
Before the range inspired by whiskey sauce, the Bacon and Cheese Fondue Burger and Mozzarella Cheese Sticks were also among the best-performing releases of all time for the fast-casual burger chain.
Red Robin’s winning formula was to shrink the menu and then introduce a combination of new release items spanning multiple categories.
“I think the main change is that it’s against a reduced menu, but there’s a burger, there’s an appetizer, a soft drink, an alcoholic drink and a shake,” said Murphy. “And those together, we’re seeing extremely high turnout and more in the premium price category. And quite honestly, they’re still accelerating.”
Red Robin’s first major success with changing the menu came during the pandemic when he pizza added through a partnership with Donato’s Pizza, known for its edge-to-edge fillings and thin-crust pies. The chain slowly added the Donatos brand to some menus, which increased additional revenue by contributing $14.4 million in sales. Customers who bought the pizza had checks that were on average $10 higher, according to Restaurant News of the Nation.
Red Robin has 523 locations in 45 states. The casual restaurant chain was founded in Seattle, Washington, in 1969.
Amber Lake is a staff writer at Eat This, Not That! and holds a journalism degree from UNF in Jacksonville, Florida. Read more