Red Robin testing $15 Kobe beef burger

The casual dining chain is hoping to hike sales by offering premium burgers, with a rollout eyed for later this year.

By Aimee Picchi Jan 21, 2013 12:58PM

Katy Schneider delivers food to a table at Red Robin on July 6, 2011 in Germantown, MD (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images)While some restaurants and fast-food chains are slashing prices to entice diners, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers (RRGB) is testing a novel idea: a line of premium burgers that would include Kobe beef and potentially bison. 

The burgers may appear on the chain's menu in the second half of 2013, Chief Executive Stephen Carley said at an investor conference last week, according to Nation's Restaurant News.

The big question, Carley said, is what diners want in a premium burger, and "what guests are prepared to pay a premium for."

The new dishes won't come cheap: one Wall Street analyst said he expects the new burgers to be priced as high as $15. 

That would mean a single Kobe burger -- even before taxes and tip -- would cost the average American about 10% of his or her weekly food expenditures. The typical consumer spends $151 on food each week, according a study from Gallup last year.

Kobe beef means a specific breed of cattle raised around Kobe, Japan, which is known for tenderness and flavor. Most beef advertised in the United States as "Kobe" actually isn't, but instead comes from other regions of Japan or America. 

Nevertheless, it's become a byword for high-quality beef and has found its way onto the menus of both high-end restaurants and casual dining chains, including the Cheesecake Factory, which sells an "American Kobe beef" burger for about $13.95. 

Red Robin has grown into a chain of 470 restaurants by offering a range of fire-grilled beef hamburgers and chicken burgers, which generally cost from about $7 to $10. 

While it may be a gamble that diners will pay more for food, some restaurant chains are making that bet, given the creeping cost of ingredients. 

Wendy's (WEN) earlier this month said it would change its value menu offerings, because selling items for 99 cents was leading to losses. Last week, Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) hinted at higher prices to cope with faster-than-expected food inflation.

More on Money Now

Jan 21, 2013 6:30PM
The last I heard the USDA did not allow the sale of Kobe beef in the U.S. You can definitely have 'Kobe Style' but the two are not the same. Has that changed?
Jan 21, 2013 6:30PM

Jae Ho....I hope you live in Japan..??

I've had Kobe twice in Japan..

Once with the Mayor and other dignitaries of Numazu..

And another time in Tokyo...similiar situation..


A small steak, it was an offering; I almost turned down, then I remembered my manners..

I was the only person at the table that had it...

Like I said, it was a special thing from my Japanese host'

And I did not insult them, even being full from a scrumptous....Mostly seafood dinner.

Jan 21, 2013 6:21PM
I vote for the bison burger! These are great tasting and low in fat. That makes them and excellent treat for a gourmet burger.
Jan 21, 2013 5:40PM

Up until August of 2012, it was illegal to import Kobe Beef from Japan ( The only country that has the real Kobe Beef). All that has changed. The small amount that is being imported today is going almost exclusively to high-end steakhouses who will charge dearly for it – the Old Homestead in New York was one of the first to jump on the legal Kobe bandwagon, and their price of $350 for a steak. So, I really doubt that a "Kobe Beef " burger is going to cost you $15. Get real RR!!!

Jan 21, 2013 5:31PM
There isnt enough KOBE beef to be served at large chain.  Real KOBE comes from place called Kobe, Japan.  Wonder if KOBE beef is internationally trademarked..if it is..get ready to get sued.  Oh yea...there isnt a real american Kobe beef, because american and kobe doesnt go together.  90% of american beef is factory style cattle ranch, KOBE is from cows that roam freely and naturally grass feed and beer.  In fact 99% of americans never had real KOBE and hey cost between 60 to 100 US dollars in japan to get a 8 or 12 oz steaks.
Jan 21, 2013 5:17PM

And I will agree the Region/town is/maybe significant....And I've heard of Kobe being exported to the U.S.and other Countries....I've heard conflicting stories.??


But I will bet  $10,000 dollars, that I can make and cook 10 hamburgers from beef....

5 from Kobe beef....and 5 from beef of my choice...


And you won't be able to guess correctly, 50% of the time, which is which...??

Sorry a hamburger is no way, to treat Kobe beef...

A good cut of beef, is a good cut of beef...IMO

Jan 21, 2013 4:47PM
Has anyone eaten at Red Robin lately? I *Wish* their burgers ranged from $7 to $10. In reality, it's more like $9 to $13. If they introduce a so-called "premium" burger, they'll probably tr to sell it for around $16 to $18.
Jan 21, 2013 4:28PM
You have heard the old sane "where's the beef"  Well this burger's new sane is:  WHERE's THE HEART ATTACK"   YUM, YUM, watch out for the PINK SLIME

Doctors and hospitals will love you when you have to have surgery and get your arteries cleaned out.


Jan 21, 2013 4:15PM
I would also like to add that this is just a small example of the scamming up and dumbing down of the American people.  Get with it, pay attention, and stop buying into what the TV tells you to do. 
Jan 21, 2013 3:57PM
Heck a average burger is already 7 to $10.  Kobe burger for 15, I'm in.  Don't know how many or how often. Probably the same as the 7 to $10 burger.
Jan 21, 2013 3:52PM
You can't get Kobe beef anywhere in the world but Japan folks.  Anything advertised as Kobe beef  is nothing but false advertisement.  Kobe style, Kobe style raised, Kobe style grade hahaha. I don't know what to call it but it sure ain't Kobe beef.     
Jan 21, 2013 3:38PM

Will you receive a certificate of authenticity from your waiter?  How does anyone know what they're really getting anymore from a restaurant chain?  Chances are, you will pay for regular ground beef, with an added touch of flavor that will make most people believe they are eating something special.

Jan 21, 2013 3:36PM
If you really find this that interesting go on a diet and save some space to move for other people. 
Jan 21, 2013 3:12PM
The closest thing you'll get to REAL Kobe beef in America is a basketball ref and Mr. Bryant in an argument!
Jan 21, 2013 1:59PM

Don't know about the Kobe Region or area of Japan...Been in Japan 4 times...


It's all about how the cow/cattle is raised and what it is fed.....


Yes had Kobe, twice.

And have our own farm/ranch, but just raised a few beef or hogs at a time..

No Bison or Beefalos or anything too exotic..

Mainly Horses and funner things.

Jan 21, 2013 1:53PM

I read this Headline and then to everyone else...And just started laughing my azz off...

You don't make a hamburger out of true Kobe beef...Idiots.

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