Red Robin. Langley. Willowbrook Mall.
There are a lot of great restaurants run by entrepreneurs and many more struggling to survive for various reasons. But there are also quite a few chains and franchises. Like any place, some do well, some don’t. Red Robin, near where I live, always seems to be busy.
When you walk in, it’s bright, with lots of natural light, and it’s spacious, with tables not too crowded together and good-sized booths. Posters hang on the walls, of movies or hip locations, and familiar hits play on sound system, loud enough to be heard but not loud enough to drown out conversation.
I arrived just at the end of the lunch rush so I was seated quickly even though the restaurant was still full. I chose the bar area. Easy to keep an eye on the people coming and going, easier for me to see who are their clients.
Because I’m not feeling well, I order something simple. Burger. Fries. Coffee. Water. The waitress is young, full of energy and polite. The food arrives quickly, is hot and well cooked. It’s delicious. Not OMGYHTTT delicious but it gets the job done.
But it’s nothing special. Good food at a good price.
So why is this place filled, even after the lunch rush?
The menu is fine and has lots of comfort food. That’s why I chose it. A few safe pastas, good old fashioned burgers, big milk shakes, plenty of appys, beer and other alcoholic beverages if you want them. But so what? Why is this place full?
As I look around, I realize they have solidly hit their target market. Is it a place where you might go with friends for a quick bite after shopping or seeing a movie? Sure. But that’s the location speaking. What really struck me was the number of kids.
This is a place you can take the kids and still have a good time as an adult. There’s plenty for the kids to eat, the corporate mascot is a funny looking chicken carrying a burger (which the kids all climbed over) and no one cares if they make a lot of noise or mess things up a bit. There’s pictures for the kids to color, they have their own menu, and even a birthday club they can join.
Now, I’m not saying this is all new and earthshattering or that they have live unicorns or rainbows shining out of the chicken’s butt, but what I am saying is that they know what they are doing.
Can you imagine taking kids to the tapa bar? Or the Twisted Fork? Or the Four Seasons? Good food but not really a kid place, and, on the other end of the spectrum, a place like Chuck E Cheese, it’s kid heaven but if the parents don’t go home and take a fist full of aspirin, I’d be surprised.
It’s something I need to remember when choosing a place to eat. It doesn’t have to be hip or uber-cool or even have OMGYHTTT food, but it has to have a niche and, in this case, that niche is huge: A family-friendly restaurant that’s an affordable place to eat.
So does the Robin lay an egg? Nope. It’s not the pretties bird out there, not the sexiest, not even the smartest but it knows how to get the worm – in this case, a table for 4 please, and two kids menus.