Stories Communicate Red Robin’s Culture

December 1, 1998
How storytelling has become part of Red Robin International’s culture is a story in itself. It goes something like this: While President and CEO Michael Snyder was watching his son ride a horse eight years ago, his son dismounted and unbridled the animal, setting it free to run powerfully and gracefully across the field. The event inspired Snyder, who -- after taking over the company in 1996 -- introduced the “Unbridled Philosophy” to the Englewood, Colorado-based restaurant chain.

Now, stories of unbridled passion surface everywhere -- in internal newsletters, advertisements and recruitment flyers. Stories of unbridled acts are even told at every meeting, large or small. “Management understands what we’re about, but when they try to cascade that down, that’s where the challenge has always been,” says Doug Watson, company spokesperson. The stories have helped. “They’re emotional, heart-warming stories of people going over and above the call of duty.”

Such as the story about the Tacoma, Washington, Red Robin manager who drove a group of teenagers to their homecoming dance after their chaperone’s car wouldn’t start. Or one about the Bakersfield, California, team member who assisted a gentlemen who was out of breath by seating him, bringing him water and retrieving his oxygen tank from his car.

“The campaign has been really successful,” says Watson. Turnover is way below industry average, he says, and the company is in growth mode. Red Robin has 130 stores in 16 states and Canada, and has letters of intent on 44 locations around the country. Snyder admits in the Rocky Mountain News, however, that this goal may not be met. He says: “We’ll grow, but we’ll always grow with grace and dignity and live within our values.”

Workforce, December 1998, Vol. 77, No. 12, p. 41.