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Red Robin lays off some field, corporate-level staff

Company says move in wake of evolving guest needs

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers Inc. this week laid off a number of field and corporate-level workers, the company confirmed Thursday.

The Greenwood Village, Colo.-based brand said “the casual-dining marketplace has changed dramatically in recent years and our guests’ needs have evolved,” according to Kevin Caulfield, Red Robin spokesperson, in an email.

“To remain a strong and growing restaurant brand, Red Robin's priorities and choices for where we dedicate resources must also change, so we are resetting our organization for the future of our business and the changes include the elimination of some positions in the field and at the home office,” Caulfield said.

“While some roles have been eliminated and some functions have been reduced, Red Robin does plan to hire in areas that will support future growth,” he said. Positions included area directors, one source said.

Other casual-dining brands have reduced positions at the field and corporate level as well. Last January, Chili’s Grill & Bar, the division of Dallas-based Brinker International Inc., laid off about 50 employees from its corporate staff and more than 30 people from its field director team in a restructuring.

Earlier this week, Red Robin executives said they were also trimming in-restaurant positions, including the expeditor in the kitchen and bussers for clearing tables.

Guy Constant, Red Robin chief financial officer, on Jan. 8 told ICR Conference attendees that the company was working to reducing labor costs.

“We started in the fourth quarter in a really significant way by eliminating the expeditor position,” Constant said, which he said would provide about $8 million a year in labor savings. “We’re in the process of this quarter now of eliminating the busser position in our restaurants.”

“We need to do that in order to address the labor increases we are seeing,” Constant said.

Caulfield said Thursday that employees at the restaurant level could apply for other positions.

“Some team members formerly in those roles may have opportunities to transition to other Red Robin positions,” he said. “The restaurant level-changes are taking place in company-owned units.” Red Robin owns about 480 of its more than 560 locations.

Last week, Red Robin named a new human resources leader, appointing Beverly Carmichael as chief people, culture and resource officer. Carmichael most recently served as chief people officer for Lebanon, Tenn.-based Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc.

In November, Red Robin said it would be pausing unit growth after fiscal 2018 in order to evaluate the company’s strategy.

For the third quarter ended Oct. 1, which included an income-tax benefit, Red Robin swung to a profit of $2.7 million, or 21 cents a share, compared to a loss of $1.3 million, or 10 cents a share, in the prior-year period. Analysts had forecast earnings of 28 cents a share.

Revenue in the quarter rose 2.3 percent to $304.2 million from $297.3 million in the same quarter last year.

Same-store sales declined 0.1 percent in the quarter, driven by a 0.1 percent decrease in average guest check and flat guest counts.

Conact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

Correction: January 11, 2018
This story has been edited to correct the spelling of Kevin Caulfield.
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