Vegetarians are just as much a part of the consumer culture as carnivores. Red Robin, a restaurant chain that proudly serves customers a wide variety of carnivorous delights, such as 24-different flame grilled burgers including the Bleu-Ribbon Burger and the Royal Red Robin Burger, has been an American favorite since 1969. In the past few years Red Robin has been named by Zagat for #1 Best Burger in the Full Service Category in 2012 and has continually won the award since 2008.

Last week, Red Robin released a television commercial that offended herbivores by promoting their wide variety of Flame-Grilled Burgers, but promptly implied a snarky eye roll and saying, “We even have a Gardenburger—just in case your teenage daughter is going through a phase.” 

Lots of companies have tried to push the “envelope” by providing edgy commercials to help promote sales and relate to the target demographic to which they are marketing.

Red Robin wants to promote the mass consumption of protein-filled filled burgers for their customers; and yet to stay marketable to a changing attitude of people who have switched from eating meat to vegetable products.

Red Robin’s social media site on Facebook has also seen the negative backlash from its loyal patrons. Some fans posted that they “will never eat there again” due to the commercial.

The senseless attack against Red Robin’s vegetarian customers comes as a bit of a shock when they have announced they are promoting a non-meat option for individuals who choose not to eat meat. Even though the restaurant has had these vegetarian options on their menu for some time, the chain sought to promote the dishes to help boost sales.

A recent study by the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that non-meat consumers were less likely to suffer heart disease, diabetes and kidney failure that’s associated with diabetic conditions. Approximately 5-13 percent of national U.S population claims to be a ‘vegan’ or consumes mostly vegetables with no meat or dairy. That relates to 15 million citizens that could be potential Red Robin customers –which not many found to be as humorous as the producers of the advertisement.

Red Robin’s target was not to create a whirlwind of internet frenzy, but to provide a humorous commercial to widen the gap of its consumer base. This suggests the company recognizes the widening gap of lifestyle trends among customers.

In today’s current mass-media environment and instantaneous information, documentaries are circulating rapidly among those who are questioning the ethical integrity of protein consumption and the treatment of animals. Companies like Netflix and Hulu offer eager viewers a variety of stimulating documentaries that can make one question the treatment of animals and encourage viewers to become more health conscious for an hour or so. A few popular choices are: Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead, Super Size Me, Forks over Knives and Vegucated.

Many celebrities have jumped on the bandwagon and switched to veganism more publicly. Some popular entertainers who have publicly announced their vegan lifestyles are: front-man and Rock and Roll hall of fame member of Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, actor Steve Martin, and hip-hop legend Vanilla Ice.

These high profile entertainers have had a significant influence on swaying potential consumers to side with the vegan lifestyle and to question the nutritional aspect of consuming meats.

Red Robin probably didn’t mean to offend millions of would-be customers, but in today’s digital world of instant information, companies need to be extra cautious on the perceived message that they deliver to the public. While the commercial has its humorous attributes, the negative public relations reaction could end up costing the restaurant chain monetarily.  

Let’s hear it from you, did Red Robin cross the line in its advertisement promoting its new vegetable burger? Or is this just a classic case of vegetarians not being able to take a joke?