Red Robin is treating one of its shuttered fast-casual units in Chicago as a laboratory of sorts, hoping to find success in the “virtual” restaurant format where others have failed. Red Robin Express is a challenging model, says Jason Rusk, the chain’s VP of business innovation. But the chain must find a way to keep up with changing consumer demand, and delivery (despite the “necessary evil” of third parties, as Rusk refers to them) is where it’s at, he says. There’s hope delivery-only will succeed where Red Robin’s fast-casual Burger Works concept failed, because it allows for a pared-down menu and a slimming of staff, he says. Here's how.
Timed delivery radius
At Red Robin Express, in the heart of Chicago’s densely populated Magnificent Mile, delivery boundaries are set by minutes, not miles. Ideally, a delivery should be no farther than eight to 10 minutes away, Rusk says, so each driver can handle about three or four deliveries per hour, and food arrives at the right temperature.
Hybrid delivery model
In addition to partnering with half a dozen third-party delivery companies, Red Robin Express employs three people each shift to handle deliveries that come in through Red Robin’s website and app. These staffers deliver food on foot or by bike, while another four workers man the kitchen.
Building a better bun
To maintain its product integrity, Red Robin’s signature steak fries aren’t offered for delivery. Customers instead get seasoned chips. The chain has also developed a sesame seed-topped brioche bun that doesn’t get soggy during travel, Rusk says. It’s available at limited locations, including the new delivery-only unit.