Carin Stutz, the former president of McAlister’s Deli, is transitioning from a fast casual chain to the casual dining chain Red Robin.
From sandwich shop to gourmet burgers, she has been appointed the Executive Vice President and COO on Red Robin, where she will be leading the restaurant management teams of more than 440 company-owned store locations in both the US and Canada.
She didn’t exactly venture away from the fast casual segment altogether though. The chain also has a fast casual concept, known as Red Robin Burger Works. This is where foodies can "Get Their Quick Fix of YUMMM®." So far there are 12 locations in the nation, including a new Chicago store that just opened this week.
Although, Carin Stutz fast casual background will be relevant to her new role, she is also no amateur to the casual dining market. She has previously served in operations leadership roles for major brands including Chili’s and Applebee’s.
“Carin is a proven leader in driving operational excellence, business results and profitability in the highly competitive fast casual and casual dining industry,” said Denny Marie Post, president of Red Robin Gourmet Burgers in a recent press release. “We are excited to have Carin on our Red Robin team, where her extensive restaurant and new concept development experience, combined with her leadership talents, will be essential as we continue building an organization focused on engaging our restaurant teams, creating memorable guest experiences and driving superior results.”
Red Robin's New Focus on its Bar Program
Red Robin was founded in 1969, but has gone through a recent re-branding to stay competitive in today’s market. Its latest focus has been on its bar menu. Now known as Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews, the bar-recapture program has been in the works since 2011. This wasn’t an easy feat, considering the chain was seen as a family eatery in the 2000s.
Interestingly enough, the brand was originally known for its mixology and beer. The original Red (the brand’s mascot) was even holding a beer. But over time, the brand transformed into a more conservative, family-focused restaurant.
After experiencing low bar sales, accounting for only 6% of the entire business, the brand decided to do a redesign of its stores. The remodel included constructing three distinctive areas, one for family dining, one for 21+ and one area open for all.
In as early as 2012, the brand started the major remodel project on 21 of the stores and by the end of this year, the “Take Back the Bar” program will be almost complete in all stores. Since the brand transformation, the bar sales have increased significantly, draft beer and margaritas are there best-selling alcoholic beverages.
It will be interesting to see how Stutz brings fresh ideas to the casual dining chain.
Even though she has had a busy career as a restaurant leader, she still makes time to share her industry knowledge. She currently serves as one of the board of directors on the Woman’s Foodservice Forum and was also a moderator for The Tipping Point panel at the event that kicked off the NRA Show this past weekend, foodable.io.