Red Robin Empowers Millennial Employees With Social Enterprise Solutions

Companies in the retail, hospitality and restaurant industries are revising their communication strategies to better connect with millennial employees who use technology and social media on a daily basis.

Gourmet burger chain Red Robin, for instance, is taking the mantra “knowledge is power” to a whole new level by leveraging Yammer, a social enterprise platform, to engage 26,000 employees nationwide. Using Yammer, Red Robin enriches communication across the organization and consistently mines insights and sentiment from employees regarding new products and processes, according to Chris Laping, SVP of Business Transformation and CIO for Red Robin. The solution has accelerated the company’s overall pace of change, innovation and customer experience improvements.

“Up to 87% of the Red Robin workforce consists of millennials, so we need to reach our managers and team members where they are accustomed to being reached ― and social and mobile helps us do just that,” Laping said during an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Our team members want to be engaged in multi-threaded discussions as well as experience other media such as video when developing their skills.”


To transform static training and educational processes into multimedia and interactive experiences, Red Robin taps a series of social communities within the Yammer platform, according to Laping. These communities are designed to help improve relationships, communication and collaboration among all team members.

“Large chains depend on team members to deliver on the promise of the brand,” Laping said. “You will live and die based on their capabilities and how much employees love the company they represent. Research has shown that team members love their work when they feel they are making a difference. However, to make a difference, they must be empowered to shape outcomes and their company culture.”

Social enterprise tools and solutions can help employees at large chains share ideas and structure corporate advancements in a “simple yet elegant way,” Laping added. “Social media breaks down the barriers and squashes the taboos of giving feedback.  At the same time, it provides a toolset that is highly relevant to team members’ lives.”

Accelerating The Pace Of Innovation

Since implementing Yammer in April 2011, Red Robin has noted a series of trends regarding the types of conversations taking place on the enterprise social network, Laping noted. “We find that our workforce primarily uses Yammer for three things: To easily and quickly get support; access key resources such as recipes; and provide feedback on new initiatives, including new uniforms, menu items and technology.”

Ongoing interaction among team members is empowering Red Robin to accelerate the company’s overall pace of change and innovation. For example, the chain rolled out 1,000 iPads in early 2013, along with an interactive training program for team members.

“We used Yammer as a backstop to the training program and saw engagement reach higher levels than ever,” Laping stated. “Our ongoing investments in mobile and social are reducing turnover rates and have enabled many of the rapid changes we’ve made at Red Robin.”

In addition, because Yammer is comprised of standard features and capabilities found on popular social networks, Red Robin spends less time training employees on how to utilize the platform.

“The beauty of a tool like Yammer is that you don’t really have to educate your team members on how to use it because they already use social media in their everyday lives,” Laping said. “Twitter and Facebook are second nature to our workforce, so we have an opportunity to spend less time on training and education, and more time talking about and improving the business.”

Along with the new training program, Red Robin developed a network called Yummmerversity. The social network enables Red Robin team members to explore resources, as well as communicate with fellow employees when they have follow-up questions. Employees also are encouraged to offer feedback, such as “insights regarding the standards they’ve learned,” Laping explained, “as well as recommend new and better practices for consideration across the Red Robin system. Talk about crowdsourcing!”

Laping reported that as of mid-July 2013, 2,500 corporate employees and managers, as well as “a vibrant and growing community of team members” are actively participating on the Yummer Yammer? network and Yummmerversity. 

In another case, Red Robin faced lackluster social buzz among consumers when the new Pig Out style was released. However, the company soon realized that the new offering was being discussed frequently on Yammer.

“Managers and employees started talking about ways to tweak the Pig Out recipe, and four weeks later, we had an improved, kitchen-tested version to roll out to restaurants,” Laping reported. “That’s a process that would have taken 12 to 18 months before.”

With a goal of maintaining overall pace of innovation, Red Robin is utilizing a “take it, tweak it, share it approach” to increasing employee feedback across Yammer, Laping shared. “We’re maintaining our dialogue and working together to improve our operations, but we can only do so effectively with feedback. Our transformation depends on our team members. We need team members’ engagement to build better guest experiences. That engagement is dependent on two-way communication.” 

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