When Gerald Kingen added burgers to the menu of a popular University of Washington bar, he didn’t know that he was creating the first in a chain of restaurants that would, over 40 years later, be serving burgers in 514 restaurants across the U.S. and Canada. Learn more about Red Robin with the following facts.
1. THE FIRST RED ROBIN WAS JUST A LOCAL TAVERN NAMED FOR ITS OWNER.
In the 1940s, a man named Sam opened a eponymous tavern near the campus of the University of Washington. A fourth of a barbershop quartet, Sam was known to hum even while not on stage. His favorite tune was a little ditty called “When the Red, Red Robin (Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along).” He loved the song so much that he decided to rename his tavern after it.
2. HAMBURGERS WEREN'T ON THE MENU BACK THEN.
With the help of Gerald Kingen, Red Robin expanded into a full-fledged restaurant, but the menu was noticeably lacking what would become the restaurant’s signature dish. Diners chose from items such as popcorn and wrapped sandwiches until 1973, when burgers topped with cheese, bacon or even a fried egg made their debut.
3. TWO REGULARS OPENED THE FIRST RED ROBIN FRANCHISE.
When Kingen was looking to expand his restaurant concept, he turned to franchising. Two regulars, Mike and Steve Snyder, jumped at the chance to open their own Red Robin in their hometown of Yakima, Washington. The Snyders created the Snyder Group Company and opened a small chain of Red Robins across the northwest.
4. RED ROBIN HAS BEEN SERVING BOTTOMLESS STEAK FRIES FOR OVER 20 YEARS.
Diners have been treated to never-ending fries, with the purchase of any of their 24 burgers, at all Red Robin locations since 1994. If fries aren’t your thing, the restaurant also offers unlimited amounts of sweet potato fries, steamed broccoli, coleslaw and side salad. Word on the street is there is a “bottomless” version of their root beer float as well.
5. RED ROBIN WON THE ‘BEST BURGER—FULL SERVICE’ CATEGORY IN THE ZAGAT FAST-FOOD SURVEY FOUR YEARS IN A ROW.
From 2009-2012, the restaurant chain could proudly tell customers that their burgers were picked over all others in a competition that included Steak 'n Shake, Cheesecake Factory, Ruby Tuesday, and Chili's Grill & Bar.
6. A PORTION OF SALES FROM THEIR FRECKLED LEMONADE IS DONATED TO ALEX’S LEMONADE STAND.
In addition to hosting lemonade stands at several of their locations across the country on National Lemonade Day (August 20), Red Robin gives a portion of the proceeds from the annual sales of Freckled Lemonade to childhood cancer charity Alex’s Lemonade Stand. Since 2012, the company has raised and donated more than $1 million.
7. RED ROBIN TAKES ITS ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ALMOST AS SERIOUSLY AS ITS BURGERS.
All those unlimited portions of fries create a lot of excess oil, all of which Red Robin recycles for use as an alternative fuel. The company has also installed solar panels at three of its Colorado locations and was recognized by the EPA for its use of energy-saving equipment in its kitchens.
8. THE ORIGINAL LOCATION IS NO MORE.
The tavern that launched the national chain served its last burger in March 2010 after the cost of maintaining the 90-year-old building became too high. There were talks of opening a new restaurant in the same location, but the building was demolished in 2014.
9. THERE IS ALSO A SMALLER-SCALE RESTAURANT CALLED BURGER WORKS.
The first Burger Works location opened in Denver in 2011, and the concept has since been expanded to four Colorado locations, plus ones in Chicago and Washington, D.C. Diners are still able to chow down on Red Robin burgers, but off a simpler and lower priced menu in a more fast-casual setting.
10. YOUR FAVORITE TWIN HGTV FIXER-UPPERS ONCE KEPT RED ROBIN SPICK AND SPAN.
Drew Scott and Jonathan Silver Scott, a.k.a. HGTV’s Property Brothers, were busboys at the restaurant during their teenage years, but they have yet to include a gourmet burger kitchen in one of their home renovations.