The Hungry Man Eats

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Red Lobster: Food Looks Fancier When Stacked


Does the picture of the Crab Bake above from Red Lobster make your mouth water? If not, then perhaps the discussion to come about Red Lobster will not be your thing, go read my review on my other site about the Italiano Burger from Olive Garden instead…

Those of you in the know have probably heard by now that Darden Restaurants, best known as the parent company of such sit down casual restaurants such as, the Olive Garden and Longhorn Steakhouse has sold off the Red Lobster chain of restaurants. Red Lobster had been considered the weak link in Darden’s restaurant operations and supposedly Darden will be in a better position now that the sale is complete.

The new CEO Kim Lopdrup had some interesting things to say:

  • He is of the opinion that Red Lobster is still viewed as “fine dining for the middle class”.
  • About the new presentation of their plated dishes: “The food arranged in a way that’s more like you’d see at a fine-dining restaurant,” Lopdrup said. “The seafood is the star.”(Check out the link to the news story for pics of the food plating)
  • “At the end of the day, people are not going to go a Chipotle for their anniversary or their birthday.”
  • The number of non-seafood items will be reduced from the current quarter of menu items, to more like 10-15% of the menu.
  • They will do away with some of the recent promotions they have had that made their food look cheap (but still keep beloved promotions such as Crabfest and endless shrimp)

As a longtime patron of Red Lobster, what does the Hungry Man think?

  • If by fine dining for the middle class means decent quality seafood that does not cost an arm and a leg (or a fin and a flipper) but still has steak available, then yes. But one of the complaints I heard while these discussions were ongoing about whether to spin off Red Lobster was that Red lobster was too pricy for less affluent people, too low-class for the rich and no longer the first choice for the middle class. The dining out landscape has changed dramatically in the past 20 years, the bar has been raised on people’s expectations and Red Lobster is still partying like it is 1994.
  • This point was the one that amused me and spurred me to write this up. Spread out it looks like a bigger plate of food, but it sure looks fancier stacked like that… The key point though for me is that your food will stay warmer longer that way and we all know how quickly seafood cools off.
  • You are correct sir. Places like Chipotle and Panera are the industry darlings currently, but they are not good choices for actually going out somewhere to eat for a sit down experience. They call them fast casual restaurants because you order and grab your food like it was fast food, but if you are eating in at a place like Panera, your food is given to you on real plates with silverware, no server to tip. Chipotle however is basically glorified fast food, and their restaurants, if you have the misfortune to actually have to eat in one are loud, crowded and have a worse ambiance then my high school cafeteria. The quality of the food is the only thing Chipotle has going for them, and it is good food. But neither one is a good place to go out with the family, or trying to impress someone on a first date, compared to Red Lobster at least.
  • If you call your restaurant Red Lobster, then seafood should be the focus, diverting your time and attention to the people who did not come to Red Lobster to eat seafood is folly. Rather than having a quarter of your menu filled with middling non seafood offerings, make those 10-15% you do keep the very best non-seafood items you have, goodbye Parmesan Crusted Chicken Alfredo…
  • Pricing of your dishes is important, price something too high and nobody will buy it, it is overpriced. Price it just right and people will buy it. Have a coupon for two bucks off of said dish and people will believe they got a good deal, but price and promote something too low and people will believe they are getting a low quality item. People would rather have a deal than cheap food.

I wish Red Lobster the best of luck and call me old fashioned, but given the choice of Chipotle, Panera and Red Lobster as places to eat, I would rather pay more and enjoy a decent sit down meal at Red Lobster.

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