Red Lobster Is Emphasizing Quality, Adding Pricier Menu Options To Turnaround Sales Declines

31 Comments
August 4, 2014 ‐ By Kimberly Gedeon
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Under the direction of new CEO Kim Lopdrup, Red Lobster is adding a little more panache and paying more attention to quality in order to turn around declining sales. While certain deals like “Endless Shrimp” and “Crabfest” will will live on, others like the 30 shrimp for $11.99 deal will disappear, and dishes like a lobster pot pie that only had a half-ounce of lobster will be no more.

“You’re not going to see any of these low-priced specials that we’re not proud of,” Lopdrup told the Associated Press.

The new CEO is taking Red Lobster’s catchphrase “Sea food differently” to heart as well, upgrading the restaurant’s plating to a more “fine-dining” presentation style to appeal to a more discriminating customer who now has low-priced options like Chipotle and Panera to choose from. Those chains have stepped up the fast-dining game and have seen their business receipts increase. With competition heating up, Red Lobster is giving the brand a touch up and presenting itself as a choice alternative to other chains.

“At the end of the day, people are not going to go a Chipotle for their anniversary or their birthday,” Lopdrup said.

This strategy switch comes after Darden Restaurants sold Red Lobster to Golden Gate Capital for $2.1 billion in May. Other details about the menu are in the works, including plans to ditch an expansion of non-seafood entrees, such as chicken and beef, to retain its seafood roots. And there will be higher-priced dishes coming, some reaching $30 a plate, that will accompany the more affordable options that diners see now.

“Our goal is to be not just the biggest seafood restaurant, but the best. In the coming months, we plan to introduce everyday food at affordable prices along with new dishes that are suitable for special occasions,” Lopdrup told MadameNoire in an email.

According to Slate, the troubles that persist with the middle class, including stagnant wages, are making the restaurant business a more difficult one.

“After the recession, consumers spent less money in general, so restaurants offered more promotions and value items,” the website says. “But this didn’t bring back the middle class. Instead, as Darden noted when it first announced the Red Lobster spinoff late last year, the chain’s customers were increasingly from lower-income groups. Higher-end consumers, meanwhile, moved on to more upscale dining experiences. Places like Red Lobster and Olive Garden [another Darden company] got lost somewhere in the middle.”

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a customer for the food that made Red Lobster popular and successful to begin with. The company is looking to make adjustments to find the sweet spot that will draw diners to their tables once again.

“We have no plans to increase prices as a result of our new ownership and the things our guests know and love most about Red Lobster are not changing,” a spokesperson told us via email. “Red Lobster will still bring guests well-loved promotions like Endless Shrimp, Crabfest and Lobsterfest while also featuring wood-grilled fresh fish; lobster, crab and shrimp prepared in classic and new ways. Our famous Cheddar Bay Biscuits and great service are also here to stay.”

We can all breathe a sigh of relief about those biscuits.

This story has been revised to clarify some points and add quotes from Red Lobster CEO Kim Lopdrup. Updates by Tonya Garcia. Originally published on July 31, 2014. H/t Consumerist.

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  • HOpe

    I have been going to redlobster since I was 5, and let me tell you, I was a super fan up until about 2 years ago. I went from going twice a week to maybe once every few months, and even then it’s only because I get a cheese biscuit craving. The first thing that griped me was that all the good servers were gone and they hired these obnoxiously loud, ghetto servers. Then I started to notice the food quality went way down, I felt like I was paying all that money for food I could have gotten at Captain Ds.
    This new CEO is nuts, sounds like he wants to alienate the customers who are still loyal and market to people who will never step foot inside a red lobster. He should ask JC penney how well that worked out for them….

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  • Brady W

    So Red Slobster wants to be upscale, but keeps the ghetto “Crabfest” and “endless shrimp” and “cheddar biscuits”…that’s like building a nice new neighborhood around welfare housing projects and expect the neighborhood to bloom…not gonna happen Slobster, your food still sucks.

    • Sunni_Dee

      The Kennedy Family would be horrified to hear you call Crabfest “ghetto” as their annual crab fest and clam bake on Martha’s vineyard is the inspiration for the promotion.

  • Mona Poe

    There’s not a lot of “quality” to Red Lobster but I’ll take their biscuits anytime.

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  • Fred Pahlke

    until the Lobster stops selling it’s pre packaged menu of frozen foods it will continue to have quality problems. It is a high class Long John Silvers. Sorry, but chains, to make sure they are consistent with their food, have to serve, on a majority of their menu dinners, this less than fresh food. Nothing is changing but the price. It won’t work

  • Kevin Adrian

    Mom and Pop restaurants are making a comeback because chains started treating their customers like cattle, “get em in, get em out but stuff a $5.00 desert down their throat first .” People go where they and their money are appreciated and RL definitely forgot that. RL will never make a real comeback unless their customer service changes.

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  • rheddaj

    Red Lobster? yeah, “quality” – all the while serving us genetically modified food ingredients in secret

    • Sunni_Dee

      From 1970-2007 they offered only “Fresh catch” which was the reasoning behind their pricing. It was what made them great. Greed changed that

  • William Olsen

    If Red Lobster wants more customers, they need to run a Daily Special, this has worked for decades and still does. They are too expensive for anyone below middle class incomes. I believe I’ve been to Red Lobster three times in my whole life. Too expensive for the mediocre quality of foods they serve.

    • Sunni_Dee

      They need to stop spreading themselves so thin Cut down a 100 restaurants. Make a decision on whether to be a inexpensive or up the prices. It is not a must to dine at Red Lobster and if you cannot afford it, so be it. You don’t see Cheesecake Factory, PF Chang’s, or Maggiano’s dropping their prices

  • crybabyrepukes

    I MIGHT go back to RL – doing research now on new owners. Darden made their employees suffer by not embracing Obamacare. I have no time for companies that skirt ideas that WORK. Darden is now dead. THANKFULLY More companies that are run by right wing lunatics need to die out. I still won’t eat at Olive Garden. ONE – the food is horrible. TWO – Darden still owns them

    • Fred Pahlke

      go jump in the lake with your political agenda. You are boring……

    • Brady W

      Thank god you’re not going to RL with MY TAXPAYER MONEY.

  • JLG

    I discovered R.L. in 1974. I have patronized the chain ever since. The first thing they did to gripe me was to get rid of the hushpuppies. I’m from the South. But I continued to go. Now they are going raise the price out of my range. I live on S,S, only. GOOD BYE RED LOBSTER. From JLG

  • Carol

    This is nuts!!! “Upscale” diners are going to go to Red Lobster and order the most expensive items on the menu??? Why would they do that???? Red Lobster is not going to change it’s low cost casual image by putting $30. meals on the menu. If they want to go upscale, then do it, can’t do both. Hmmmm, it used to smoking or nonsmoking, now I guess we have the cheap side and the upscale side to look forward to.

    • Fred Pahlke

      right on Carol.

  • Lance Burton

    Service is gonna take now that they treat their employees the same as the fry salter at BK.

  • Sunni_Dee

    I worked for Darden company for 5 years. I was a server and worked my way to bar manager. Red Lobster was known as a place your family went for celebrations, occasions and an overall experience. Over the years, the service has declined. That is more the issue than the “food quality” or pricing. Before changing the menu, change back the work culture. Might be time to go back to “Compass training”

    • Fred Pahlke

      here in Oklahoma the service has never been a problem. Never in the 100’s of times I have eaten there.

      • Sunni_Dee

        There are more than 700 Red Lobster locations. Service may not be an issue in the 30-40 restaurants in Oklahoma, but that doesn’t mean its not an issue overall in the company

  • Aaliyah Noelle

    2.1 MILLION ?! That’s it?! Damn
    Well as long as they don’t change the bread recipe.. We all good.

    • TGarcia

      The “million” should’ve been “billion.” That typo has been corrected. Thanks for reading!

  • Candy

    Chipotle ??? I would have never thought that chipotle was in direct competition with Red Lobster, They don’t even offer Shrimp, and only a few have a liquor lic. Outback Steakhouse seems more of a direct competition.

    • William Olsen

      Black Angus Restaurants are fading out, but they are still my favorite all time eatery. GOOD food, decent pricing. BEST home made salad dressings on ice cold plates and ice cold salad. Unbeatable.

  • lulu

    10 years from now the headline will be “Red Lobster bankrupt”

    • Lance Burton

      2 years tops.

      • Brady W

        1 year top

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