Red Robin Is Making The Big Switch From Frozen To Fresh Chicken

Family-friendly restaurant chain Red Robin has been serving up burgers for more than 50 years. Along with its beef burgers, the brand also offers a variety of chicken dishes, which the company has historically made using frozen chicken. Now, as part of its plan to improve quality, reduce costs, and boost profits, the brand is switching to fresh chicken. As reported by Restaurant Business Online, the move from frozen to fresh is expected to save the company approximately $5 million annually. With an outlay of $16 million spent on better quality food, staffing, and other improvements in 2023 alone, the company plans to continue investing at least $8 million per quarter for the near future in the hopes of reinventing its image and menu. Fresh chicken is just one of the changes, which all told are expected to cut operational costs by $12 million.

In a recent press release, Red Robin's president and CEO G.J. Hart laid out plans to scale back most of the brand's pandemic-era deep discounts, which had cut into profits. At the same time, the brand is also boosting its loyalty program and focusing more on social media and local marketing moving forward. Hart stated that the company's fourth-quarter results have already shown higher dine-in traffic compared to its third quarter, which signals that the changes put in place have been working thus far.

Fresh ingredients bring quality back to casual dining

All of the changes at Red Robin are good news for customers, who can expect to see an overall upgrade to their dining experiences. The improvements include cleaner facilities, faster service, and more staff on hand for everything from expediting orders to bussing tables. Long-time favorites remain on the menu as the brand adds new and exciting options, such as its new Whiskey River BBQ ribs, tsunami shrimp, and caramel apple pie milkshake. Its limited edition BBQ Burnt Ends 'N Bacon burger is another step in a delicious new direction.

While it remains to be seen if new chicken items will be added to the menu, as of October 2023, existing poultry favorites have already begun changing over from frozen to fresh. Affected items include Red Robin's signature chicken sandwiches (including its California, crispy, and teriyaki chicken sandwiches) as well as the Whiskey River BBQ and crispy chicken wraps. Appetizers, salads, and entrees making the move to fresh include the Buzz-style Clucks (chicken tenders with spicy sauce), the Ensenada chicken platter, boneless chicken bites, and saucy chicken wings, plus the Avo-Cobb-O, Southwest, and grilled chicken salads. 

Red Robin is so confident in its new and improved fresh chicken meals that its menu teases that they may just be inciting another round in the chicken sandwich wars, which had previously pitted restaurants against one another in a battle for chicken dominance. Time will tell if switching to fresh chicken is the winning move.