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Posted on Fri, May 14, 2010 : 5:59 a.m.

New Red Robin prepares to open May 17 on South State in Ann Arbor

By Janet Miller


General manager Michael Lexcen and Robert Monti talk at the bar while staff trains in preparation of the new Red Robin restaurant opening on South State in Ann Arbor.

Janet Miller | For

When the Ann Arbor area's second Red Robin restaurant opens across from Briarwood Mall May 17, it will be unique among the national gourmet burger chain’s more than 400 locations. 

It will break with corporate design to include some local décor. And it will expand its happy hour from just the bar to the entire 222-seat restaurant, said General Manager Michael Lexcen.

Ann Arbor’s newest casual dining restaurant occupies the 7,000-square-foot former Bennigan’s on Briarwood Circle, which closed in January after 28 years. 

Red Robin, which had been looking for an Ann Arbor location for awhile, jumped at the chance to lease the building, Lexcen said.

It’s an ideal location, close to the mall, businesses, hotels and the University of Michigan. 

“Quite frankly, there isn’t another full-service casual dining restaurant like us close by,” he said. With a menu that ranges from 22 burgers to soups, salads and wraps, “we pretty much cater to everyone,” Lexcen said.


The exterior makeover at Red Robin on South State transformed the building that formerly housed Bennigan's.

Janet Miller | For

The Red Robin has attracted a fair amount of interest, even before opening day. There were 1,300 applications for the 130 jobs, Lexcen said, and he expects another 100 applications a day once they open. 

While they listed the jobs on Craigslist, they didn’t advertise, he said. 

Most of the hires have been high school and college students, and additional staff will be added if customer traffic warrants, Lexcen said. The new waitstaff spent this week learning the difference between a California chicken burger and a honey mustard chicken burger, and getting ready for a four-day sneak preview for invited guests that will serve as training before opening day.

While he said there were no targets for daily receipts for the new Red Robin, Lexcen, who has worked for Red Robin for 17 years, said some locations have taken in $100,000 in their opening week. Lexcen said he expects a line on opening day. The average Red Robin tab is $10 a person, he said.


Red Robin general manager Michael Lexcen.

Janet Miller | For

Shortly after Bennigan’s moved out, the build-out began, Lexcen said, including a new kitchen, gutting the bathrooms, new flooring, paint, remodeling and decor. 

But they kept the U-shape bar and smaller spaces off the open main dining room left by Bennigan’s. The floor plan creates more intimate spaces than most Red Robins, Lexcen said, which are usually wide open. 

Meanwhile, te weekday happy hour will expand to the entire restaurant.

"I’ve never seen that in a Red Robin in my 17 years,” Lexcen said. 

While the Ann Arbor Red Robin has the trademark potpourri of art covering almost every inch of wall space (with a mixed collection of art that varies from a Pirates of Caribbean movie poster to a painting of the Founding Fathers), it also has a U-M twist. One wall of art is dedicated to the maize and blue.

The Ann Arbor Red Robin is owned by the Ansara franchise group, which owns 19 other Red Robins in Michigan, including the one on Carpenter Road in Pittsfield Township along with two in Toledo. Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, Inc., is a publicly traded company with headquarters in Greenwood Village, Colo.

Red Robin will donate 50 cents for every burger sold during opening week to Ann Arbor Fire Department’s Bikes for Tykes program.

Janet Miller is an Ann Arbor-based freelance writer.


laurie in ypsi

Fri, May 14, 2010 : 2:45 p.m.

Free choice. If you dont like the food or all means feel free to eat elsewhere. Those having fun over a burger and beer will be better off if you stayed away...what a bunch of snobs. I happen to know two kids employed there and for them this is a VERY good thing. Lighten up A2 or you will begin to resemble your reputation.


Fri, May 14, 2010 : 2:44 p.m.

While I am not a fan of Red Robin since I am a pescatarian, but those that want to eat there can, those that do not, can go to an independent. Just let us know when something is still considered independent verus a chain. Zingerman's has multiple locations (by the way WAY more expensive than Red Robin) Real Seafood is part of a chain called Main Street Ventures which has locations in Toledo and throughout Ann Arbor. Mediterrano has Carlyle, Quarter Bistro is the same ownership as Cottage Inn downtown. Ownership and number of locations does not determine quality. If enough people do not like Red Robin, the location will fail. I highly doubt that since the Bennigan's lasted 27 years, Olive Garden is still in the area, Ma and Ermas is just up the street and the Damon's is one of their busier restaurants.


Fri, May 14, 2010 : 2:32 p.m.

"Went to a pre-opening dinner last night. I've never been to one of these establishments, and if a loud environment with over-salted food that has enough fat content to stop your heart in its tracks is what you're craving, this is the place. Ironically, I'm reading Michael Pollan's "Food Rules", and this food is definitely not on the healthy choice menu." While I couldn't care less about the noise of a burger joint (I'm not going there for a romantic date (although I will hold my wife's hand,) I am conscious about my health to a degree. They offer a boca burger that is awesome when you hook it up like their other burgers. I can't wait for my free birthday burger! WOOT!


Fri, May 14, 2010 : 11:43 a.m.

Classic food police stuff right here. My goodness why would anyone want to try to open a currently sucessful franchise? What were they thinking?! "If you wanted to go chain, why not a Cracker Barrel.." Becasue that place is terrible....leave that for ypsitucky or Saline....A2 is a little too city livin for that


Fri, May 14, 2010 : 11:18 a.m.

Quite frankly, there isnt another full-service casual dining restaurant like us close by, he said. With a menu that ranges from 22 burgers to soups, salads and wraps, we pretty much cater to everyone, Lexcen said. Wrong. Max & Erma's is walking distance away.


Fri, May 14, 2010 : 10:45 a.m.

A chain restaurant replaced a chain restaurant. No big deal. I enjoy a Red Robin meal once in a while and that's the key, moderation. Obviously enough people like the food for them to open up a second restaurant in the area. Capitalism at it's finest. If you don't like it, don't go!


Fri, May 14, 2010 : 10:07 a.m.

For variety, I like the Cracker Barrel suggestion. One Red Robin is enough in AA/Ypsi area, especially they are kind of pricey.

Steve the Wookiee

Fri, May 14, 2010 : 9:05 a.m.

This is funny! So what we should do is let the building remain vacant, turn away the 100+ jobs, not accept the tax revenues into the city coffers and tell the Fire Dept. they can't have the donation for Bikes for Tykes? It's not as if this is in the heart of downtown - which also has it's share of chains I might add. Like Sirotan says, if you don't like it, don't go.


Fri, May 14, 2010 : 8:23 a.m.

I live near the Carpenter Rd. Red Robin and I find their burgers to be mighty tasty. If those of you in the comments above thing their food is so terrible and unhealthy, then don't go. I've always had positive eating and service experiences at Red Robin and I can't wait for the new one to open.


Fri, May 14, 2010 : 8:22 a.m.

Appearently its time for the food police to move in


Fri, May 14, 2010 : 8:20 a.m.

Ditto on all of the above! Why oh why A2?? If you wanted to go chain, why not a Cracker Barrel where one can at least shop the country store while waiting for their plate of grease!

Hot Sam

Fri, May 14, 2010 : 8:03 a.m.

I think the folks from the Center For Science in the Public interest are afraid to even test this stuff!!! They probably don't have a meter that will go that high!!!


Fri, May 14, 2010 : 7:47 a.m.

Yayyyy, another chain restaurant helping to homogenize the tastes and experiences of all in the U.S.! When I step inside I'll feel more like I'm part of the herd than the beef on their buns...

Jon Saalberg

Fri, May 14, 2010 : 6:23 a.m.

Went to a pre-opening dinner last night. I've never been to one of these establishments, and if a loud environment with over-salted food that has enough fat content to stop your heart in its tracks is what you're craving, this is the place. Ironically, I'm reading Michael Pollan's "Food Rules", and this food is definitely not on the healthy choice menu.