Just as the beer business is in tumult, as domestic and light sales tumble, imports are mixed but generally healthy and craft soaring, chains dependent on beer sales are keeping a close eye on how they are doing.
Prime among the attentive chains is Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, winner of the 2014 VIBE Vista Award for best beer program among multi-concept and chain restaurants. Undertaking a brand transformation initiative, including a return to its roots as THE place for great burgers and brews, Red Robin updated its beer program to include more selections - more than 18 bottled selections and an additional 8 to 16 varieties of beer on tap are now available at all units. Individual locations also have the freedom to choose their own mix of styles including local, regional and national selections. Locations with larger bars can offer up to 16 beers on tap, while smaller bars may offer less draft selections and more bottled options.
To stay true to its spirit of innovation in mixology, the gourmet burger chain launched its popular Octoberfest Beer Milkshake in late 2012, followed by three additional Beer Milkshakes through 2013, and created Can-Crafted Cocktails featuring Coors Light and Blue Moon Belgian White beer last summer.
“These adult-inspired drinks have helped to solidify our reputation for innovation and creativity and reinforce our reinvigorated focus on beer,” said Donna Ruch, master mixologist at Red Robin. “The Beer Milkshakes and Can-Crafted Cocktails have that ‘wow’ factor and are taking traditional burger and beer pairings to a whole new level.”
More than 1,000 beer styles are available for locations to choose from to ensure each restaurant is featuring selections from their specific location or region. Additional updates to their beer program include new glassware and pricing, modernized back bar displays and unique food and beer pairing tools for servers. The new glassware provides a more uniform look and beer pricing has changed from just two categories to five, including domestic, domestic plus, craft, craft plus and specialty beer. Better defined pricing categories help guests understand why they’re paying a premium for some styles and updated back bars include creative artwork to better showcase beer offerings.
The Beer Milkshakes and Can-Crafted Cocktails were added to the regular beverage menu after a successful limited run, and are served in reusable beer cans made of aluminum with the look and feel of a real beer can. “We’re constantly looking for ways to add excitement and help distinguish our program from others and we really hit it out of the park with these beer-infused drinks,” says Ruch. When market analysis indicated that both drinks had the potential to be highly successful, the chain’s marketing department created the first ever Red Robin TV ad to focus on an alcohol beverage (showcasing the Can-Crafted Cocktails).
Red Robin provides incentives for team members and managers to sell more beer and the seasonal promotions. Managers that sold the most Octoberfest product last year received a trip to visit Samuel Adams Brewery for a tour and education about beer. Red Robin also partnered with Blue Moon to offer an interactive food pairing dinner where guests learned tips and techniques related to pairing burgers with beer.