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At Algonquin Red Robin, good deeds are part of the culture

Published: Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013 12:26 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013 10:53 p.m. CDT
Caption
Jacobs High School student Marisa Brenner (left) cleans a Red Robin table Thursday, January 10, 2013. Debbie Lupa (right) supervises Jacobs special needs students who learn life skills by partnering with the Red Robin in Algonquin.

ALGONQUIN – At the Red Robin in Algonquin, good deeds don't go unnoticed.

Whether it's raising money for sick children, donating gift cards to community events, or helping elderly customers get wheelchairs out of their cars, Red Robin employees are always looking for ways to do random acts of kindness.

“It's something we do on a regular basis. It's who we are,” said Bill Mulroe, general manager of the Red Robin at 441 S. Randall Road.

Recently, a story about a Red Robin in North Carolina went viral after the manager gave a pregnant woman a free meal. Mulroe said that type of good deed is not uncommon.

“That kind of stuff happens here daily,” he said. “That's why I love working here.”

Red Robin refers to its company's good deeds as unbridled acts of kindness. The term came from the company's original owner who thought his horses ran better when they didn't have on a bridle.

“We try to do unbridled things, which can be anything from how we serve a guest, to stopping on the side of the road to help someone change a tire, to walking guests out in the rain with an umbrella,” Mulroe said.

One time a Marine returning from duty hid in Mulroe's kitchen and surprised his parents by serving water to their table.

Another time a woman asked Mulroe to bring a jar of Prego spaghetti sauce to her and her husband's table, as a way of announcing her pregnancy to her spouse.

Mulroe's Red Robin makes a conscious effort to help to community and to give their customers a positive experience.

“My name's on the front door,” Mulroe said. “I want to make sure everyone's experience is good.”

Most of Red Robin's good deeds involve monetary donations. Mulroe's crew has raised money for a family who lost their house in a fire, frequently contribute to local charities, and often raise money for children with cancer.

Mulroe said his restaurant's philosophy has brought the employees closer together.

“I have very, very low turnover. Almost none,” he said. “We're kind of like a big family.”

At every managers meeting Mulroe begins by asking his employees who has recently done an unbridled act of kindness. At every meeting the employees — many of whom are high school students — list the good deeds they've done.

“These are 16- and 17-year-old kids,” Mulroe said. “I don't tell them. They go out there and wheel the handicapped person in or help someone at Meijer with their groceries. It's really great to see the kids grow that way and learn to do good things.”

Red Robin also partners with Jacobs High School's students with special needs, who come in four days a week to help with tasks like filling salt and pepper shakers, cleaning menus, or wiping down tables.

“The basis of our program is to work in the community and to learn life skills for after high school,” said Debbie Lupa, a special needs job coach at Jacobs who was supervising two Jacobs students at Red Robin on Thursday morning.

The students are able to get out of the classroom and take part in real-world activities that often result in jobs after high school, Lupa said.

“Red Robin is awesome,” she said. “This particular location, they're awesome with our kids. Bill (Mulroe) teaches, explains, and talks to them because I need to stay back a little bit. Because some day they're not going to have a job coach.”

Mulroe said his restaurant has developed a reputation in Algonquin of doing good deeds, and half of his clientele are regulars.

“It's part of who we are, and it's who we want to be,” he said.

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