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Red Robin closes, rebrands 12 fast-casual Burger Works units

Company plans to rethink small-format concept with takeout and delivery in mind

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers Inc. has closed nine of its fast-casual Burger Works locations and is rebranding the remaining three as Red Robin Express, company officials said Monday.

Kevin Caulfield, a spokesman for Greenwood Village, Colo.-based Red Robin, confirmed a report in Crain’s that the company has decided to end its experiment with the Burger Works brand after a strategic review of the concept.

The company felt the smaller-format Burger Works was not differentiated enough from the full-service, larger Red Robin restaurants, Caulfield said.

The nine BurgerWorks locations were also not performing as well as company officials had hoped, Caulfield said.

The company is still interest in doing a smaller-format brand, however. Caulfield said the chain would do it in a way that supports growing demand for takeout and delivery.

After reporting second-quarter results in August, Denny Marie Post, Red Robin’s CEO, said the company would seek to capture off-premise business with the test of new online ordering, delivery and catering programs.

“There’s a lot of opportunity in being the leader of burgers in carryout, delivery and catering,” she said at the time.

The last of the nine Burger Works scheduled to close was shuttered on Sept. 30, Caulfield said. Two of the units in Chicago had only been open about six months.

The three remaining units, now called Red Robin Express, will have new signage. One will undergo some décor changes, he said.

But operationally the restaurants will be very similar to what they were before, said Caulfield.

More details on plans for the smaller-format concept are expected at the company’s next earnings call, he noted.

Red Robin began testing the Burger Works concept in 2011 in a move that seemed a direct response to the growing popularity of better-burger players like Five Guys Burgers and Fries and Smashburger. 

The option of a smaller-format unit, ranging in size from 2,000 to 4,000-square feet, would allow Red Robin to move into more urban and nontraditional locations, where the brand was underrepresented. Full-service Red Robins are typically around 5,600-square feet.

About a year ago, the company projected opening five to 10 Burger Works locations in 2016.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected]
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout

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