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A Gold Star for Red Robin…

January is half over, the news from Haiti is heartbreaking, and right now it seems that the snow will never melt. In all, it’s been a tough few weeks. Fortunately, the 8-K that Red Robin (RRGB) recently filed lets us focus for a moment on something positive and bestow footnoted’s first Gold Star of 2010.

Red Robins are bright, colorful restaurants that keep kids happy with balloons, coloring pages, and visits from the company’s mascot. Adults get to enjoy the unlimited seasoned fries and the ubiquitous sports-channelling tv’s until the food (which is, happily, several notches above fast food fare) arrives. Of course, just because a restaurant’s popular with customers like me doesn—t mean that its corporate filings are equally appealing to its investors. But in this case, they may be.

Under the August 15, 2008 restated employment agreement that governed Chairman/CEO Dennis Mullen’s employment until this past Monday, he was —eligible to receive a cash bonus for each of the years ended December 31, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 of not less than fifty-percent (50%) of his annual base salary if certain performance metrics determined by the Compensation Committee for the year ended December 31, 2009 were met.

The company said that even though the metrics were met for 2009, the Compensation Committee requested that Mullen waive his cash bonus for 2010, 2011, and 2012. Mullen agreed to do so. Since he made $725,000 in base salary during 2009, the cash bonus would have been at least $362,500 this year and at least $400,000 in 2011 and 2012.

Instead, the new employment agreement states that Mullen’s bonus eligibility through 2012 —will be based solely on his participation in the Company’s annual incentive plan.” In a trade-off, the Compensation Committee increased Mullen’s annual incentive bonus target to 100% of his base salary, rather than the 90% target he had in 2009. And it increased Mullen’s base salary from $725,000 to $800,000, although it should be noted that Mullen’s salary did not change in 2008 or 2009.

But there’s more! It continues:

—the Amendment terminates Mr. Mullen’s right to be paid or reimbursed for personal travel expenses incurred by Mr. Mullen in commuting between Arizona and Colorado, as well as the tax gross-up related to such payments. The Amendment also deletes the 280G tax gross-up provision…In connection with the Amendment, the Compensation Committee also determined that, when granted, 50% of the annual equity grants for 2010 to Mr. Mullen will be performance-based instead of 100% time-based.

We don—t read a lot of filings that document an executive’s willingness to waive a bonus, give up the right to be reimbursed for personal travel costs and gross-ups, and adopt a performance-based system to determine whether he will receive half of his potential equity grants. But clearly it’s worth a rare footnoted Gold Star.