Understanding Red Lobster’s Popularity Among Black Diners

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In addition, although the Center for Science in the Public Interest has dubbed a Darden dish (Olive Garden’s 1,030-calorie Lasagna Fritta appetizer, at 1,030 calories) “food Adult Videos,” the calorie- and carb-conscious magazine “Men’s Health” in 2010 crowned Red Lobster the “healthiest sit down chain restaurant in America,” a place where patrons can sit and “without guilt” eat such entrées as the pound-and-a-quarter, 298-calorie “Live Maine Lobster.”

Darden spokesman Jeffers said black patronage is appreciated, but that blacks are not specially targeted. “The success of our company is driven in large part by our focus on the guest experience and that’s treating everybody with warmth, with hospitality, and making sure that they have a phenomenal experience in our restaurants – and that’s regardless of who that is,” Jeffers said.

There are nearly 700 Red Lobster restaurants across the nation, and the chain has locations in Japan. Red Lobster, together with another dining giant, Olive Garden, are Darden’s best-known brands. Olive Garden is the nation’s largest Italian restaurant chain, with nearly 1,000 locations, a well-known slogan (“When you’re here, you’re family”), and TV commercials featuring hunger-inducing close-ups of steaming food.

Quarterly sales for Darden, reported in March, were above estimate, up 5.5%, to $1.98 billion. Olive Garden was up 4.3% to $907 million, and Red Lobster was up 1.2% to $663 million. Market research firm Robert W. Baird & Co. reported that Red Lobster is “the dominant player in the casual seafood segment,” and projected an increase in U.S. restaurant sales for 2011, up 3.6% over 2010.

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