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

August 4, 2014  |  

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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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