Red Robin’s History
It’s hard to believe that Red Robin, home of succulent gourmet hamburgers and sandwiches, has actually been around since the 1940’s! It all began when a man named Sam opened a tavern near the University of Washington. Being multi-talented, Sam also sang in a barbershop quartet, and one of his favorites was “When the Red, Red Robin (Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along).” The tavern became known as Sam’s Red Robin, and in later years it was simply called Red Robin.
In 1969 the first actual Red Robin opened in Seattle, Washington, by then-owner, Gerry Kingen. The original menu was mostly sandwiches, munchies and beer. Then, in 1973, the menu was upgraded to include 3 burgers that are still around today: the Red Robin Bacon Cheeseburger, the Red Robin Gourmet Cheeseburger, and the Royal Red Robin Burger, complete with fried egg. This last burger, while unusual, was created to comply with an ordinance in effect at the time in Seattle. Apparently, it was against the law to operate a restaurant during certain hours unless breakfast was served. Not wanting to close during those hours, Kingen added a fried egg to a burger and it became breakfast! In spite of the strange combination, it’s one of their most popular burgers.
During the 1970’s and ‘80’s, Red Robin began to expand. Mike and Steve Snyder, who were frequent Red Robin diners themselves, opened the first franchise restaurant in Yakima. In the mid-1980’s, as the expansion spread to other states and Canada, a Japanese food-service company known as Skylark acquired a major interest in Red Robin. During this period, and in the early 1990’s, the restaurant mascot, Red, was introduced as well as the signature “Bottomless Steak Fries.” This all-you-can-eat feature guarantees that no one will ever leave hungry when dining at Red Robin!
Eventually, Red Robin cut its ties with Skylark, merged with the Snyder Group, and moved its headquarters to Greenwood Village, Colorado. By the year 2000, the chain had grown to 150 restaurants, and by 2009 it numbered over 400. Red Robin has done well financially in the 21st century, and continues to pile up the accolades. Some of their recent awards include being named one of the Ten Best Family Restaurants in Parent Magazine, the Nation’s Restaurant News’ Excellence in Advertising on Television Award (EAT) and the #1 Rated Zagat Best Burger of 2009 Award. Their operating and financial officers have also been the recipients of numerous awards for their business successes and their community involvement.
The Red Robin Philosophy
The Red Robin philosophy is somewhat unique in the business world. The core values of Honesty, Integrity, Continually Seeking Knowledge and Having Fun are at the heart of the Red Robin organization. All Team Members wear these core values on their shirt sleeves, and they are encouraged to subject their guests to Unbridled Acts. These are similar to Random Acts of Kindness, and several testimonials appear on the Red Robin website describing some of these Unbridled Acts.
What Red Robin is Known For—Community Involvement
Red Robin has also been a valuable support in the community through programs like the Red Robin Foundation, which offers emergency aid and scholarships to Team Members in need. The U-Act Program encourages kindness and volunteerism in middle school students. Participating schools are eligible for grants when they adopt this character-building program. Every year, Red Robin hosts a contest to find the winning gourmet burger recipe invented by a kid. Proceeds from the sale of these burgers are donated to The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). They also provide free Child ID kits to parents. Special Olympics is another organization that benefits from Red Robin’s support.
What Red Robin is Known For—Mouthwatering Gourmet Burgers and Spirits
The philanthropic ideals of Red Robin are only surpassed in most people’s minds by the fantastic food that they serve. The quality of their meat and produce is first-rate, and the menu is continually evolving. Their most famous menu items include Freckled Lemonade, Bottomless Steak Fries, Towering Onion Rings, the Royal Red Robin Burger and Mountain High Mudd Pie. A sampling from their current menu includes:
• Towering Onion Rings
• Cheddar Bacon Skins
• Fresh- fried Zucchini
• Guacamole, Salsa and Chips
• Blackened Bayou Burger
• Sauteed ‘Shroom Burger
• A.1. Peppercorn Burger
• Banzai Burger
• Bleu Ribbon Burger
• Royal Red Robin Burger
Chicken Sandwiches and Other Favorites
• Whiskey River BBQ Chicken Sandwich
• Ragin’ Cajun Chicken Sandwich
• Crispy Fish Sandwich
• Grilled Salmon Sandwich
• The Garden Burger
• Santa Fe Chicken Pasta
• Arctic Cod Fish & Chips
• Whiskey River BBQ Ribs
• Red’s Rice Bowl
• Asian Chicken Salad
• Fajita Fiesta Pollo Salad
• Apple Harvest Chicken Salad
Wraps, Sandwiches, Soups
• Clamdigger’s Clam Chowder
• Red’s Homemade Chili Chili
• French Onion Soup
• Whiskey River BBQ Chicken Wrap
• Apple Crisp
• Mountain High Mudd Pie
Bottomless Beverages and Malt Shoppe
• Freckled Lemonade
• Rookie Magic
• Hawaiian Heart Throb Smoothie
• Soft Drinks
• Classic Malts and Shakes
Masterful Margs & Mixology
• Mango Margarita
• Sand in Your Shorts
• Fruity Boozie Daiquiri
• Tropical Mai Tai
• Wines by the Glass
While this is by no means a complete menu, it is easy to see that Red Robin offers a good variety of choices using quality ingredients. The menu includes some vegetarian options and allergen information is available upon request. There is also a gluten-free menu option online at their website–http://www.redrobin.com. And, if you’re worried about calories, Red Robin has a Customizer feature online that allows you to build your burger and check the calorie content.
What Red Robin is Known For—Unique Décor
Almost anyone who has ever visited a Red Robin Restaurant can attest to their amazing eclectic décor and style. Probably none of the restaurants are exactly alike, yet the ambience is always similar—family-oriented, upbeat, fun and maybe a little crazy. Posters of everything are everywhere. There may be airplanes hanging from the ceiling, and/or a TV in the floor, as well as several other places in the restaurant. There may be a Statue of Liberty with a hamburger on her torch, and an American flag made of baseballs. Red Robin sells some of their glassware, but much of the artwork is created solely for the restaurant.
Some Red Robins sport game rooms, but almost all of them have some type of pinball machines or other games for the kids to try. Red, the mascot, makes random visits to the restaurant. Balloons are usually in evidence, and often given to kids when they leave .
What Red Robin is Known For—Being a Kid-Friendly Restaurant
Along with the U-Act Program and NCMEC and Special Olympic support, Red Robin is continually providing activities to encourage kids to perform Unbridled Acts and develop to their fullest potential. Recently they sponsored a “How Do You Make a Difference” Poem Contest. Currently, they are sponsoring an Etch-a-Sketch-a- Burger Contest, which also includes an adult entry category. Every year a contest is held in which kids can design a gourmet burger. The one that is chosen the winner is served in the restaurant, and is entered into a cookbook which can be downloaded free at the website.
There are also online activities for the kids, to include “Gone Fishin’,” and “Burger Blaster.” Red offers some printable games, also.
Red Robin Coupons and Discounts
The best way to procure discounts at Red Robin is to sign up for their e-Club. It’s free, and it guarantees you a free burger on your birthday, and a welcome gift as well. Occasionally, throughout the year, Red Robin will then send you offers for free appetizers and also keep you updated on their special offers. A recent special offer featured a Prime Chophouse Burger for $6.99. Currently, they are featuring the “Yumm,” or Big Melt Bacon Burger or a Honey Mustard Chicken Sandwich for that same price. Since most of their burgers average about $9, this is a good deal. And, of course, they are served with Bottomless Steak Fries!
The eClub also generates occasional coupons such as $2 off Arctic Cod Fish & Chips. Unfortunately, they have recently had problems with a fraudulent coupon advertising a free gourmet burger and sundae. It is also possible to obtain some coupon books for Red Robin kids’ meals on eBay. This does not appear to be a current promotion, though, and of course you would have to bid on them.
Around the December holidays there is usually a gift card promotion. If you buy a $25 Red Robin gift card, you receive a free $5 gift card.
Success in the restaurant business is often fleeting and/or difficult to achieve, but Red Robin seems to have some of the winning ingredients—a good philosophy, good food and loyal customers. If Sam were alive today, he would be proud of the chain of restaurants that bears the name of one of his favorite songs!