Red Lobster Is Going All Fancy, But They Better Not Touch Those Cheddar Biscuits
As many other Americans can probably say, Red Lobster was an integral part of my childhood. It was the perfect dining establishment for my middle-class family and our friends — unpretentious, affordable, and delicious — so upon hearing the news that Red Lobster is trying to be fancier, I am immediately gripped with concern. The chain's CEO, Kim Lopdrup, announced some of the changes in an interview Tuesday, and it seems like the very characteristics we embraced in my childhood are being modified. As a loyal, lifelong fan, I hope you, Red Lobster execs, take my message into consideration: Don't ever change!
In the age of fast-casual restaurants like Chipotle and Panera, customers are able to choose affordable options without sacrificing quality of food. Which means less business for sit-down, table-service restaurants like Red Lobster. So the chain needs to focus on what it can provide customers that fast casual establishments can't, apparently.
"At the end of the day, people are not going to go to a Chipotle for their anniversary or their birthday," Lopdrup told the Associated Press.
He also claimed that people generally view Red Lobster as "fine-dining for the middle class," an angle that gives them an edge over competitors like Chipotle. With specialty cocktails, higher-end items like lobster, and a full wait staff, you can get the full dining-out experience without paying exorbitant prices or eating gastronomical science experiments.
However, certain promotional deals and newly introduced dishes have created incoherence in the company's image. Lopdrup told the AP that he plans on scrapping the "30 Shrimp for $11.99" deal and the lobster pot pie that had a paltry half ounce of actual lobster meat buried somewhere inside. "You're not going to see any of these low-priced specials that we're not proud of," he said.
Instead, he plans on giving the chain a makeover to live up to its "fine-dining" label. One of the most notable changes will be in the presentation of dishes. Following the classic elevation technique, Red Lobster will now stack meats on top of the carbs, starches, and vegetables on round plates instead of putting them all next to each other on long rectangular plates.
Well, I hope the changes end there, because customers — and I believe I'm speaking for a lot of people — love Red Lobster precisely because it's not some hoity-toity gourmet restaurant. And for me in particular, it was where happy childhood memories were made.
On Sunday nights, my parents and I would get together with family friends and we'd head over to the Red Lobster on Washington Road for what my young, uncultured mind could only describe as a feast fit for kings. Unlimited shrimp swimming in garlicky oil, making a mess of giant snow crab legs, which involved cracking tools to eat, and the cheddar biscuits — oh my God, the cheddar biscuits. You could hear angels sing when you broke apart those warm, cheesy things.
In a statement, a Red Lobster spokesperson told Bustle:
We have no plans to increase prices as a result of our new ownership or re-brand ourselves into a fancy restaurant. We’re simply focusing on great seafood and will continue to provide a broad range of price points, just like we do today.
Red Lobster’s premise has and will continue to be about providing high-quality seafood to all at a broad range of price points. 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.
If you're listening, Mr. Lopdrup, I implore you to never change the following things that make Red Lobster so lovable.
The Complimentary Salad
Sure, most business consultants would advise against the complimentary salad, because it's an unnecessary expense and it fills customers up faster, leading to more doggy bags or food waste, but still! I wish every restaurant included complimentary salads with entrées. Which was something almost every restaurant in my hometown did.
One of the deals that Lopdrup said he'd be keeping is the chain's Endless Shrimp promotion, which allows customers to order as many shrimp entrées as they can eat for $15.99. If you're a shrimp-lover like me, then this would be your idea of Christmas. And it's a noble decision to keep the deal, given that shrimp prices have hit a 14-year high this year.
What more could you ask for than lobster on a pizza?
Ridiculously Sweet Specialty Cocktails
I wasn't really aware of Red Lobster's specialty cocktails until I moved to New York City and my friends and I "tried out" the Times Square Red Lobster, but when I discovered them, my respect for the establishment reached fever pitch. I mean, I can't even drink sweet alcoholic drinks (unless I want to get heartburn and a massive hangover the next day), but seeing people around me getting twisted off of Red Lobster's Bahama Mama and Malibu Hurricane further confirmed for me that this was the happiest place on earth.
Those Perfect-in-Every-Way Cheddar Biscuits
I don't think I need to say much here. If you've had them, then you know. Red Lobster's Cheddar Bay Biscuits change you. They are the great equalizers of the world. Next time you witness a street brawl, just yell out "Red Lobster cheddar biscuits!" and see what happens.
Images: Red Lobster, Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits/Facebook