Updated every Monday!   Subscribe to free weekly newsletter.

Red Robin’s Birthday Burger Blunder

Red RobinJohn G. is member of Red Robin’s loyalty program. He went to their Evans, Georgia restaurant earlier this month to collect on his free birthday burger that the plan promises.

When the bill came, he and his wife were surprised that only $4 had been deducted for his burger, rather than the full price. Of course, he questioned the discrepancy. The manager explained that the restaurant’s computer system applies only one promotion banked in his account to each meal purchased, and the promotion that gets applied is the one that will expire the soonest.

In other words, in John’s case, his account had a free birthday burger coupon that expires the end of July, but it also had a $4 off coupon that expires in early July, so it would get applied first. John was also told that as a program member he could have gone into his account to rank/prioritize the coupons in a different order, so the free burger coupon would have been the first one used.

John says, “unless one knows what ‘reward ranking’ is, the average customer doesnt understand that he has to keep track of offers presented to him.”

We checked the fine print on the company’s website for the loyalty program, and it is completely contrary to what he was told in the restaurant as to the order the discounts are applied to a member’s bill.


How does Red Robin prioritize their rewards?

We do rank them in the order of highest value, but now you have the ability to choose which one you crave!

And in their terms and conditions, it says this:

If you have earned more than one Reward, just present your Program Card or your telephone number associated with your Account to your server with your form of payment, and our Program system will apply the highest ranked Reward that you have earned to your bill.

Reward Redemption Order (Rank)
5 Visits in 5 Weeks, $20 Reward on 6th visit
Birthday Burger The Birthday Burger Reward includes any of our more than 24 fire-grilled gourmet burgers but does not include extra patties, extra cheese, styles or Red Robin’s Finest Burgers.
Every 10th Item Free

In both places it clearly says that the coupon with the highest value gets applied first, which makes total sense. Yet that is not what happened to John in practice. So we wrote to the PR folks at Red Robin to get a straight answer of which policy is the real policy, and what happened.

“There are a number of factors that go into Red Robin Royaltys reward rankings and we are unable to comment on this specific situation without a deeper investigation and additional information. While rewards are almost always ranked based on value, there are certain caveats; for example, a free birthday burger reward excludes Red Robins Finest burgers and non-burger items. If a guest orders an item that does not qualify for the birthday burger reward, despite it being ranked higher on their account, the system would look to redeem the next eligible reward.” —Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews spokesperson

John says he didn’t order a “forbidden on your birthday burger” so we are no more clear on what actually happened in this case than John is. The manager, incidentally, did finally figure out how to give John his free burger, but the whole incident left a bad taste in his mouth.

We agree with John that consumers should not be placed in a position to remember every offer that is sent them and be required to juggle them in one’s account before trying to use a particular offer. Restaurant diners should be allowed to merely say “please use my birthday burger coupon” or be able to print it and that should be the end of it.

Share this story:
All comments are reviewed before being published, and may be edited. Comments that are off-topic, contain personal attacks, or are otherwise inappropriate will be deleted.

9 thoughts on “Red Robin’s Birthday Burger Blunder”

  1. This is such a simple customer service issue that I am surprised it got this far. The manager should have simply comped the burger and told John to come back and use the legit one by the end of the month. You “lose” about $3 based on food cost and keep a customer happy and that customer tells others. The loyalty program info will or certainly should show that John is a regular. Manager needs some corporate training or maybe the regional managers do?

    Edgar replies: Rick, forgive me, I omitted the fact in the story that the restaurant manager did finally give John his free birthday burger. Thanks to your comment, I have updated the text above with that fact.

  2. “… left a bad taste in his mouth.” – ha! But seriously, loyalty programs should not need to be hacked, but that is what often happens. People spend time trying to understand the program in detail and work around the lowest level benefits to the point of forgetting why they enjoyed the program in the first place. Starbucks & DD both have these specials for extra stars / points that require a person to keep track of which special is in progress or select the promotion when many just want a decent cup of coffee at a decent price.

  3. Just yesterday Red Robin automatically applied a 15% discount I received in an email to our check The waitress also applied a $5.00 coupon I’ve been carrying around forever without a problem.

    With that said, RR has quietly modified their bottomless french fry policy. Time was fries would be brought to the table before the meals came – sort of an appetizer. No more. Now you can have more fries only after the meal is served. That, along with seemingly smaller burger portions and definitely higher prices means I only go there now with a coupon, discount or freebie.

  4. This sounds more like a bad customer service issue than it does an overall Red Robin issue. I think it was the specific restaurant that did not want to provide a free burger. The issue should not have reached that far.

    I suspect that the restaurant manager could have provided a free burger even if ‘the system’ did not allow that promotion to be used.

  5. From the Red Robin response:

    While rewards are almost always ranked based on value, there are certain caveats; for example, a free birthday burger reward excludes Red Robins Finest burgers and non-burger items.

    Wouldn’t you want a birthday customer to able to order a “Finest” burger? It seems like such a small cost to keep a satisfied, apparently repeat, customer coming back.

  6. “when many just want a decent cup of coffee at a decent price.”

    Marc, So then why did you go to Starbucks?

  7. I still order the refill fries when I place the meal order. They usually come out a little after the meal. Of course refills wouldn’t be necessary if the first portion weren’t so small.

    My issue with the loyalty program is that it would not allow me to sign up without providing a phone number. And the fine print there says I consent to receiving marketing calls and texts (even though verbiage elsewhere says they won’t send that kind of stuff.)

  8. If the guest was given multiple rewards AND the ability to choose which one they wanted, they should stop whining. Many loyalty programs require you to keep track of progress or points to some degree. If you don’t like it, pay full price. If you can’t use a phone for 30 seconds to swap out a reward, hop in you horse drawn carriage and go to Perkins. Sheesh.

Comments are closed.