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Red Robin takes measures to boost dining capacities

Restaurants with reopened dining rooms have recaptured 83.9% of their pre-COVID sales.
Red Robin Covid measures
Photo courtesy of Red Robin

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers is erecting all-weather tents in its parking lots and installing booth dividers in its reopened dining rooms in an effort to keep sales climbing while indoor-dining capacities are still capped in most states and counties.

The seating additions will be completed early in the fourth quarter, the casual chain said in a business update issued Thursday morning. The update indicates that sales at restaurants with at least partially reopened dining rooms have climbed to within 16.1% of pre-pandemic levels, for a weekly average of $41,160.  About 349 of the chain’s 412 restaurants have resumed dine-in service at some level, the company said.

The announcement underscores what many casual chains have noted as they reopen dining rooms, typically at 25% or 50% of their maximum capacities. They report that the biggest impediments to restoring sales to pre-pandemic levels are the capacity caps, not a lack of demand.

Many have engineered ways of seating customers outside, where capacities are still limited by a requirement to keep parties at least six feet apart, but far more guests can be accommodated because of the broader expanses.  Catering-style tents have been a popular way of serving more guests. Some operators who expanded their outdoor seating have expressed concerns about how they’ll maintain that capacity as the weather cools.

Red Robin also revealed in the update that it has a liquidity of $104 million in cash and cash equivalents.

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