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Red Robin Delays This Major Menu Addition Due To Operational Issues

The rollout of the chain's new menu category has been put on hold.

It was in 2018 that Red Robin decided to expand its already robust menu of burgers, salads, and classic appetizers with pizza—a new category that was sure to draw in higher foot traffic and check averages. But the chain wasn't starting with pizza from scratch. Rather, it struck a partnership with Ohio-based chain Donatos Pizza.

The partnership has so far added Donatos pies to the menu at almost 200 Red Robin locations and the company had plans to finish the rollout this year and bring the pizza to another 200 restaurants. However, due to major labor shortages, the chain is forced to press pause on the pizza expansion in order to turn its focus on hiring and training new workers.

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donatos pizza
Donatos Pizza / Facebook

Of the 200 planned locations, the pizza program will be added to a mere 50 in 2022, while the remaining 150 restaurants won't be serving Donatos until sometime in 2023, the chain revealed in a recent earnings call.

"We view Donatos as a long-term success vehicle, and nothing is more important than getting it right on day one at every restaurant where it is implemented," said Red Robin CEO Paul Murphy.

Plans to roll out Donatos pizza have previously been derailed by COVID-19, as the chain originally planned to stagger adding it to 100 and 150 locations annually starting in 2020.

Red Robin has reported a slight decrease in sales in January, as the Omicron variant affected staffing as well as foot traffic. However, February sales rose more than 5%—a momentum which carries on into March, according to FSR Magazine.

And according to Murphy, the brand still very much has its audience.

"The ongoing demand for Red Robin is very strong," he said. "What we are solving is a staffing issue, which is limiting our throughput, not a brand issue."

Mura Dominko
Mura is a Deputy Editor leading ETNT's coverage of America's favorite fast foods and restaurant chains. Read more about Mura