By Marisa Upson
We walk a fine line in the restaurant industry—to trend or not to trend. There are some brands that have remained consistent in their messaging and offerings, no matter the noise and changes emerging around them. Of course, that doesn’t mean they haven’t embraced technology and enhanced their delivery services. They have, however, remained true to their roots. Then, there are those who remake menus almost daily and adapt to changing consumer preferences as soon as they’ve hit social media.
Is there a better route to take?
That would depend on who you ask. As someone once said a very long time ago, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” According to an ancient Chinese Proverb, “A wise man adapts himself to circumstances, as water shapes itself to the vessel that contains it.”
Let’s explore some of the brands that went both directions and where they are now.
Remaining True to Their Roots
What’s the first brand you think of when considering a successful company that’s remained much the same as when they opened their doors? Texas Roadhouse is a name I’m sure popped into many people’s minds. Hand-cut steaks, ribs, buttered rolls, made-from-scratch sides, and, of course, free peanuts are the basics of a menu that erupted on the scene in 1993 in Clarksville, Indiana.
In 2018, FSR Magazine headlines read, “The thriving steakhouse chain (Texas Roadhouse) hasn’t changed all that much over the decades. Why? Because it hasn’t had to.” In 2023, Mashed reported that big changes were coming to our favorite steakhouse. What was the big change for Texas Roadhouse? More locations. The beginning of 2023 saw 652 locations across the U.S. and in 10 countries. Their goal? 900.
Second quarter 2023 Texas Roadhouse financials, compared to the prior year, showed a 9.1% increase in restaurant sales, an 8.3% increase in restaurant margin dollars, and $146,727 average weekly sales at company restaurants, an increase of $11,175. Not bad.
Reinventions Gone Bad
Recently, Red Robin came out with the chain’s turnaround plan. What happened? According to Restaurant Dive, unlike 2006, when it opened 48 restaurants, 2019 saw 18 restaurants close. Their turnaround plan involves returning to the platform that made the iconic brand different from the rest when it opened its doors in 1969 in Seattle. That translates to a family-oriented, kid-friendly atmosphere with balloons and Red, its bird mascot.
They’ll also be updating their menu with fresher and higher quality ingredients as well as healthier alternatives to their well-known burgers.