Part One — Bad Training — Bad Management  — Turnover



December 17, 2019, - Even One Of The Best Burger Places Can Have Problems.  A one-state  E. coli O157: H7 outbreak in July likely involved at least one dozen customers of a Red Robin restaurant in Westminster, CO.  Colorado’s Tri-County Health Department is out with a  final report on the outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing E. coil infections.  

The report contains what some call troubling findings of poor employee hygienic practices and a climate for cross-contamination.  It shows how serious the local health department was in persuading the restaurant to close temporarily and employees to submit to rectal swabs.  (BAD E.COLI TEST)  

Our Red Robin  — Red Robin Gourmet Burgers Inc. is a full-service chain of 560 restaurants in the United States and Canada. Red Robin’s headquarters is just a stone’s throw away from Westminster in Greenwood Village, CO.  It promises “high-quality gourmet burgers in a family-friendly atmosphere,”

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) first informed Tri-County about three lab-confirmed E. coli cases with matching pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) patterns on July 8. Interviews pointed to a common exposure at the Red Robin at 799 W. 140th Ave. in Westminster, CO.  The restaurant is located in Adams County, CO., which is part of Tri-County’s jurisdiction. “No additional common Exposures were identified between the three cases,” the report says.

Tri-County conducted an outbreak investigation to implement disease control measures and attempt to identify the source of the illnesses.  Tri-County’s environmental health specialists and epidemiologists reviewed food handling procedures, hand hygiene practices, food temperatures, cross-contamination, glove-use, and sanitization.

CDPHE’s laboratory conducted bacterial culture testing for 54 Red Robin employees

  • Cross-contamination between raw and ready to eat foods.
  • Failures of employees to wash hands when required and for an appropriate amount of time.
  • Failure to properly wash, rinse and sanitize food preparation surfaces throughout the kitchen.
  • Failure to properly stock necessary hand-washing supplies at handwashing stations in the kitchen.

In addition to the three confirmed cases, the investigation identified nine probable cases.  The confirmed cases involved two children and one adult.  Two of the three were hospitalized, and one developed the sometimes fatal hemolytic uremic syndrome or HUS.

On-site inspections found that violations involving employee hygienic practices and cross-contamination were numerous.  Tri-County set out to improve Red Robin’s hand-washing and general food safety knowledge among the staff.  Among the recommendations, Tri-County has made during the course of its investigation are:

  • Red Robin was not keeping an active log of ill employees.   It needs to actively track employees for illness trends.
  • Educate and monitor employees on proper hand-washing.
  • Assure staff is using single-use disposable gloves or suitable utensils when handling ready-to-eat foods.
  • Continue to identify areas at risk of cross-contamination.
  • Constantly clean and sanitize food preparation areas.
  • Continue training including certified food protection manager training.
  • Report all suspected outbreaks within 24 hours.

It’s likely the number of illnesses caused by the outbreak is underestimated, according to the report.  Case ascertainment may have been incomplete or some might have waited too long before seeking medical attention, both examples of how an illness might be missed by public health officials.  And, the report says a precise transmission vehicle was not identified.

While Red Robin took steps to improve its service and marketing strategy during the third quarter, the results were still disappointing for the company, even with new training and systems in place. Chief executive Denny Marie Post said, “for now, we are, by no means, pleased with our performance through Q3, we are heartened by the energy and commitment of our teams as we have reengaged all of our frontline leaders and team members to regain our operational edge.”

During the third quarter, dine-in sales, check totals, and traffic continued to slow across the company. Red Robin’s chief financial officer, Guy Constant, noted total company revenues decreased 3.5 percent to $294.9 million, which is down $10.8 million from this time last year. A 1.5 percent decline in average guest check and a 1.9 percent decline in guest traffic contributed to a 3.4 percent decline in same-store sales. 

After a disappointing second quarter 574-unit Red Robin took a look at the overall operational strategy of the company to see exactly where the weak points existed. Managers, servers, and hosts all underwent training to improve customer experience on both the dine-in and off-premises front.

“We increased in-store training using our new learning management system,” Post said. “Our servers were trained on the basics of greeting, one-stop ordering and three-level bussing. Our hosts are being trained via the new system on dine-in seating and to-go standards.”

“To be both a preferred destination and a source of customizable gourmet burgers, we must be great at dine-in and off-premises service,” she added.    The push to become competitive on the off-premises side of business resulted, in some ways, in Red Robin losing focus on its dine-in strategy and execution.

In Q2, Post estimated that 75 percent of its loss in dine-in traffic came from peak hours. Red Robin’s total ticket times out of the kitchen increased about a minute on average. Wait times were up about a minute. Post said they added up at peak to a “much more significant walkaway rate.”   “What’s really startling is our walkaways increased, what 850 basis points, or up about 85 percent, year-over-year,” Post said at the time.

Although Post points out ticket times, wait times, and walkaways are down year-over-year and guest satisfaction is up, the weekends remain a weak point for the company. During the weekend, Red Robin continues to struggle with dine-in traffic. Long ticket times and slow table turns during weekend hours are still causing customers to walk away from the restaurant before being seated. Constant said walkaways year-over-year compared to last year are down about 2 percent.

“The team is very much focused on capturing that peak hour potential and that requires that we turn those tables and see it appropriately and I think the teams are in a far better position to do that than we were coming into this quarter,” Post said.

This too shall pass


            Countryside Mall LOCATION
            Sunday - Thursday: 11am-10pm   Friday - Sat: 11am-11pm 
            27001 US Highway 19 North; #1130 

            Clearwater,  FL 33761    (727)726-7249         Basic Badass Burgers $$$ - Creative Combinations And Free Fries
Red Robin does a good job in the Burger wars. It is basically a sit-down, slightly more expensive, upscale emporium of the burger arts.  Selection yes, quality yes, and more flavors of ground beef than you can imagine, constantly inventing ways to stack meat and other things on a bun.  
Naturally, they also serve other food staples like chicken, fish sandwiches, etc.  A pretty full menu but keying on super burgers with every kind of imaginable concoction on board and side dishes.

This is usually a very busy location, it’s on the side entrance to the largest mall in Countryside, less than 50 yards from the malls two level new Cinema and a Sears.  And there is a movie theatre.  We usually eat and then the movie so no desire for candied food from the grand kids or us.

It shares parking spaces on the west side of the mall with the Mega movie, PF Chang's, BJ, Whole Foods and Sears. And parking at some times can be frustrating, very frustrating. And on weekends it gets busy, so parking on the perimeter avoids door dings.  There is valet parking.

The staff is nice, especially with the kids who can get temperamental at times, the food comes pretty quick and the customer base is usually couples, four or five in family groups, and the usual gaggle of teens and parents shopping till they dropped. I always look at a dining experience from a culinary standpoint food, service, location, atmosphere. Food is King but theres the court.

For a mall location, especially a really big one they do a good job. 

A Good Place With Kids If They Are Controlled

Science is required when feeding children when you eat out.   Grandchildren (I know of three) who were weaned and addicted to Mac and Cheese, at an early age love this place and even the six year old orders all by herself...Mac and Cheese, apple juice and apple slices so it makes for frequent flyer Mac and Cheese miles.

The middle ones grab a burger. Why do I mention this? Because kids today have their own plans, they are fussy eaters, many brought up on fast food, and like many kids use food as a tool to get what they want. A smart grand parent would  give up arguing and arbitrating with children. 

You can’t win, but you can outsmart, and soon they will be returned to their parents. As one who cooked professionally they know better when they stay with me. I do not arbitrate with children.  I make two dishes and give them a choice.  A or B.  Not finishing results in not getting desert or snacks...

Our waitress on this the third trip was great, she had a few kids of her own and knew the drill so well, it really made for a pleasant experience, and took the weight off our backs. It was busy but a pleasant reminder to our server, finally produced the Broccoli which I prefer instead of my fries which the kids devoured with a pint of catsup.

The chain has the rewards program which are specials that change all the time especially during the off season and when the Moon is in the Seventh House and Jupiter lines up with Mars we actually got a discount. Right place right time, what luck!

All in all, it’s a decent place, with good food and the location kept the peace with Grandkids, sometimes where you eat is as important as what you eat.... and when you want a classy location with good food that affordable, not a bad choice.  I never walked our hungry.

Frankly, it serves two purposes, it’s in a mall where we shop, it can handle kids and most enjoyed with coupons and deals on good food with my gal and me alone...there is peace in the valley. We both like the place for a good burger.

DEC 2020