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Will Red Lobster’s changes bring you back to the seafood restaurant?

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(PHOTO: Red Lobster)

NEW YORK — Let’s get this out of the way: Lobsterfest is here to stay.

But Red Lobster is making some big changes, pulling back from deep discounting and presenting food on the plate in a more vertical fashion, in the manner of upscale restaurants, rather than with fish, rice and vegetables positioned separately on the plate.

The casual seafood chain, which changed owners on Monday, will keep popular, buffet-esque promotions — like Endless Shrimp and Lobsterfest — but will nix deals like two entrees for $25.

The restaurant revealed its plans after its former owner, Darden Restaurants, completed the $2.1 billion sale of the casual seafood chain to private equity firm Golden Gate Capital on Monday.

Red Lobster’s sales dipped 8.8 percent in the U.S. for the first three months of 2014. One hedge fund CEO called the $2.1 billion a “fire sale price.”

Now the company is moving away from deals that “caused us to develop food for a price point, versus developing food that we know guests crave,” said communications director Erica Ettori. You’re not going to see an offer that “causes us to box ourselves into a discount where we’re serving food that we’re not proud to serve.”

Despite the flourishes, Ettori said Red Lobster isn’t charting a course toward an upscale future. Rather, it’s returning to its founding premise of “high-quality seafood at affordable prices.”

But looking a tad fancier is part of a turnaround effort, said restaurant consultant Aaron Allen. Competing against fast-food restaurants on price hasn’t worked for Red Lobster and other troubled casual dining restaurants, like Chili’s and TGIFriday’s. That’s especially challenging now that so-called “fast-casual” companies like Chipotle have also managed to bring high quality to the industry.

“For Red Lobster, going up-market is the only logical way out of the soggy-bottom bayou where they find their brand currently stuck,” said Allen.


  • manalishi

    Casual dining restaurants are struggling because of the economy. It’s going to be tough to up-charge you way through it.

  • Morning Dew

    The last time I ate there, my fish was previously frozen, flat and tasteless. I could have done a better job cooking it in my kitchen. If they improve the food, I might try it again.

  • Vaughan

    Probably not. The food is ‘eh’ and the service terrible. Plus the best thing they had were the buscuits are available in grocery stores.

  • eric

    I currently serve at red lobster. Its been so slow I was forced to get a second job. Now that job is my main source of income and red lobster is not..jacking the prices up is just dumb considering my store is already in a low income area. And most guests use coupons or get lower priced entrees…quality food is what will bring guests back. Not sky high prices…but hey…im not in charge i just work there….this will be interesting to see…

  • Elery Billingsley

    The high schools kids that waited on us were playing around and would not wait on us. Also we got the wrong meals.So when we got the right meal everyone else had finish eating. The Woods Lands, Conroe TX., Red LOBSTER. i HAVE NOT BEEN BACK.

  • Tdub

    For me it was the poor service that caused me to never go back. Last time we tried Red Lobster we sat at our table for 1/2 hour, waiting for someone. Anyone. To take our order. We even flagged a waiter and asked for help. But no one ever came. We gave up and left. Sorry.

  • KT Kacer

    Nope. Why not? Because I did not stop eating there because they were too casual. I stopped eating there because they are radical far right wing a-holes.

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