Red Robin CMO Discusses Craft Purchasing Strategy, FDA Menu Labeling Rules

Casual burger chain Red Robin is beefing up its beer program, installing more tap lines and remodeling all locations with a new “gourmet burgers and brews” logo on the outside of its restaurants.

To help bolster its reputation as a craft-savvy chain, Red Robin inked a three-year sponsorship of the Brewers Association-run Great American Beer Festival and plans to solicit new partnerships from medal winners.

“We want to make sure that we let a beer lover know they can come in for a great burger, and that doesn’t mean they can’t have a great beer with it,” said Red Robin CMO Lee Dolan. “We want to make sure we build this culture of beer and food and we are here to show respect to the brewing community.”

“We see this growth, and we want to be a part of this culture that we have fallen in love with,” he added.


In an effort to grow sales of beer at its restaurants, Red Robin is installing or retrofitting bars to have at least 12 draft lines. Each location will also stock between 12 and 18 different bottled offerings, with a focus on regionally relevant brands. According to Dolan, the company is about two-thirds of the way through transforming the restaurant brand.

“If you think about where bleeding edge — both beer drinkers and brands — go to live, a lot of times it’s not at Red Robin,” he said. “We are going to look for a track record of success.”

That means partnering with craft companies that consistently make a quality product and ones that will satiate Red Robin’s customers time and time again.

“It’s less about can you show up in every chain account and have this much ACV distribution,” he said. “For me, it’s more about making sure that they have a history of brewing great beer and that their beer drinkers come back for more and more.”

Nevertheless, the extent to which Red Robin will able to work with very small brewers will be limited by forthcoming FDA menu labeling rules that require on-premise chain restaurants and foodservice establishments to disclose the caloric value and supplementary health criteria of all food and beverage products they sell.

“Logistically, we are going to lean really hard on our brewer partners for that information,” he said. “If they aren’t able to provide us with the information to help make us compliant, then we will probably choose something else.”