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How Red Robin revs up their burgers and budgets

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What’s the first thing you think about when you hear “Red Robin”? Burgers, bottomless fries, or maybe their catchy jingle “Red Robin, yum!”? What you probably don’t think about is the effort that its Finance team puts forth to make Red Robin such a success.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”—and Red Robin is as far from failing as one can get. In fact, the company is actually growing and increasing its market share in an industry known for its fierce competition and tight margins. Read on to learn how Red Robin’s improved FP&A process led to a better customer burger experience and glean a few tips to improve your FP&A process, too.

In the Anaplan Hub 2015 breakout session, “Revving up the Restaurant Operations Planning Cycle,” Jaime Benson, Finance Manager of Red Robin Gourmet Burgers & Brew, shared with me how Red Robin streamlined its financial planning and budgeting process to provide timely detailed reports of each restaurant’s weekly performance.

The complexity of burgers and budgets across 400+ restaurants

With the fluctuating price of labor, food, and beverage, the restaurant industry is quite possibly one of the most challenging and competitive industries out there. But with more than 400 restaurants around the U.S. Red Robin has consistently stayed at the top of their industry. With this success though, they have undergone growth and expansion, which resulted in a challenge to provide timely insight into the companies financial standing, as well as individual restaurant performance related to its budget.

In the past, Jaime’s FP&A team pulled together monthly report or scorecards for each restaurant, which consisted of 11 key metrics pulled from 10 different resources, and then consolidated this into Excel®. This process, all too familiar to many businesses, was manual and spreadsheet-intensive. Due to this time-consuming process, each restaurant was limited to receiving its performance results two weeks after the close of each month. This delay inhibited each restaurant manager from making proactive changes to improve the business.

Since innovating and improving on existing concepts, like a gourmet burger, is inherent to its culture, Red Robin knew there had to be a better way to approach its FP&A process.

Improved financial visibility leads to improved customer experience

Red Robin implemented Anaplan to improve its budgeting and planning cycles and soon realized additional ways the platform could benefit the business, including revamping its operational scorecards and dashboards. Moving from an older, on-premise software provider, Red Robin wanted a solution that enabled restaurant managers to get to their numbers faster, while also allowing access via mobile or tablet to course-correct and improve restaurant performance, revenue, or management tactics on-the-fly. Managers needed to be out on the restaurant floor with employees and guests, not stuck in the back office crunching numbers.

“Anaplan has given us real-time insight into the health of our overall restaurant franchises, but most importantly, we have instant detailed insight into the health of each individual restaurant,” Jaime said. “Now each restaurant manager has the ownership, insight, and empowerment to confidently make decisions to improve their restaurant. They can course-correct their operating plan and budgets based on the real-time insight into a restaurant’s P&L.”

New financial insight has changed how Red Robin manages the business

Jaime shared that with Anaplan, Red Robin’s restaurant managers are saving as much as a day a week, giving them time back to focus on improving the management of their workforce and satisfaction of their guests. Scorecards that were previously delivered monthly, two weeks after month-end close, are now delivered weekly. Additionally, they now show real-time key performance indicators, including revenue, customer growth, labor costs, food/beverage costs, and more. With this insight, restaurant managers can quickly see opportunities to improve their business and have a true pulse on their budget and performance.

Jaime mentioned more than once that the speed with which Red Robin can now produce financial insight has actually had an impact on the company’s culture. Using Anaplan has changed the way the FP&A team, restaurant managers, and executives alike manage the business, collaborate together, and serve their customers.

Red Robin plans and excels (not Excel) toward exceptional guest experience

“Red Robin has proudly been an ongoing market leader in the casual dining category. As active technology adopters and our continued investment to keep our brand fresh, we consider ourselves an innovative organization,” said Jaime. “Our first priority as an organization is delivering an exceptional guest experience. Now with the help of Anaplan, I am confident that the data we’re providing the restaurant managers is accurate and beneficial, and at the same time, the restaurant managers now have the time to spend focused on the guest experience. It’s exciting to think where our business can go with the help of Anaplan!”

If you are also in a business with tough competition, tight margins, or other financial challenges, and are looking for tips to improve the bottom line, follow Jaime Benson and Red Robin’s lead, outlined below.

  • Reduce your dependence on manual entry processes, such as error-prone spreadsheets. There are too many great agile technologies out there today for anyone to be doing manual entry of data or information.
  • Enable yourself and your team to get results to decision-makers faster. In today’s economy, time to market is your bigger competitors.
  • Spend more time analyzing not consolidating the numbers. Enable the business with more insight and more time to take action on these insights.
  • Look for innovative ways to improve age-old processes. FP&A may be eons old, but with new technology, you can make it as fresh as Red Robin’s burgers.

Hear more from Jaime on how Anaplan transformed Red Robin’s business and discover seven reasons why you also should consider sunsetting your spreadsheet planning strategy.

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