5 Things You Didn't Know About Red Lobster

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There's no shortage of fans and critics when it comes to Darden Restaurants' (NYSE: DRI  ) Red Lobster restaurant. Naysayers will argue that there are far better restaurants out there serving fresh seafood, and regulars will argue that there's a reason Red Lobster is the country's largest chain that specializes in seafood.

Let's go over a few things about Red Lobster -- good and bad -- that you probably didn't know.

1. Red Lobster serves 395 million Cheddar Bay Biscuits a year
The one common thread that links every person dining at Red Lobster isn't seafood. There are plenty of items on the menu for those skirting marine life options on their plate. The one thing everybody gets is a serving of the the chain's signature buttery and slightly cheesy biscuits.

Red Lobster claims to serve 395 million of its Cheddar Bay Biscuits every year. That breaks down to nearly 1.1 million of the flaky treats on any given day.

2. Red Lobster is currently the worst performing Darden concept
Darden runs a lot of chains. Red Lobster and Olive Garden are the biggies, but this is also company behind the rustic LongHorn SteakHouse, the upscale brewpub Yard House, and the tropical casual-dining hub Bahama Breeze.

Many of Darden's smaller chains posted positive same-restaurant sales in its most recent quarter, though Yard House, Olive Garden, and healthy foodie magnet Seasons 52 were all negative. Red Lobster was its biggest loser, with comps declining 5.2% during the period. 

Attempts to drum up more hungry patrons didn't pan out during the quarter. The Seaside Mix & Match and Four Course Seafood Feast promotions failed to live up to the operator's expectations. In a bold move, Red Lobster bumped up its Endless Shrimp offering from $14.99 to its historical $15.99 price point in August. We'll see how that plays out in its next quarterly report.

3. There really is a Darden
The very first Red Lobster was opened in Lakeland, Fla., by Bill Darden in 1968.

Florida is no stranger to seafood. It's surrounded by water on three sides. Legend has it that Bill Darden and his partners specifically chose Lakeland because it wasn't coastal. He wanted to see whether the concept would fly in the middle of the state. Even the company's home turf of Orlando is smack dab in the center of the state, well than an hour's drive away from the nearest coast.

The first restaurant proved to be so popular that it didn't offer desserts or take credit cards to keep the tables turning quickly. As of the end of August there were 704 Red Lobster restaurants, and 27 of those were located in Canada.

4. Red Lobster invented popcorn shrimp
Popcorn shrimp is a staple at most seafood restaurant these days. Everyone from Gorton's to SeaPak offers them at supermarkets in the freezer aisle. Even Dairy Queen offers popcorn shrimp on its menu. Red Lobster claims to have invented it.

Red Lobster is also credited with introducing Middle America to snow crabs and calamari, but the practice of stripping tails off shrimp, breading them, and frying them up is a Red Lobster original.

5. Red Lobster used to be owned by a cereal company
Shortly after Red Lobster started to take off, General Mills (NYSE: GIS  ) acquired the restaurant operator.

You would never know. It's not as if Red Lobster ever offered Wheaties-breaded popcorn shrimp or would grind up Cheerios to batter its fried fish. The restaurants just provided the food giant with another way to cash in on the consumption of food. 

General Mills decided to spin off Darden Restaurants in 1995.

The first few years were rough, but that had nothing to do with General Mills' unloading of the chain. There were plenty of rival casual-dining chains popping up, leading to market saturation. 

Red Lobster lives on, but there was a time when it was part of a company making Trix cereal for kids.

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Read/Post Comments (34) | Recommend This Article (31)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On October 06, 2013, at 12:19 PM, micosay wrote:

    6. They use to make the breaded shrimp and scampis at the restaurant "fresh" now they frozen already breaded or made into a scampi they do still put on the tray so guess that is kind of preparing them. Do they think this my correlate to lower sales.

  • Report this Comment On October 06, 2013, at 12:25 PM, Bubblebeth wrote:

    Most shocking thing about Red Lobster? Those Cheddar Bay biscuits are over 300 calories each! You could easily consume more cals before your dinner comes than what is in the dinner itself. Yikes!

  • Report this Comment On October 06, 2013, at 12:48 PM, imDanielle2 wrote:

    Thanks for letting me know that I need to stop going to Longhorn Streakhouse now.. I did not know they were part of the same company.. I will no longer step foot in any of their restaurants ever again!

  • Report this Comment On October 06, 2013, at 12:49 PM, Only1DrQuinn wrote:

    I would not shed a tear if they closed their doors.

    Here in Monrovia, CA their Manager has no clue or is totally blind and deaf.

    Their Warming/Microwave cooks can't even get it right from frozen crap.

    Their signature Rubber Shrimp and Lobster should be a clue.

    I stopped eating here in Monrovia, CA because of the rubber food.

    I have found that just up the street is Outback Steak House, WOW! what a difference, the whole staff caters to all it's customers, they don't just throw the food down and walk away, continual checking up on our meal and asking real questions.

    The Manager stopped and talked to us for approx. 15 minutes and he was very concerned that we were happy with our dinner, we told him how his staff was one of the best we have ever had in a restaurant.

    We can't afford to eat out that often but Outback is first on our list.

    Red Lobster Motto " We Sea Food Differently"

    They can't sea what we sea.

    Neptune should cast them to the deepest part of the Sea.

  • Report this Comment On October 06, 2013, at 1:07 PM, JaJade wrote:

    well I like the BubbaGump restaurant. I love their Popcorn Shrimp... so hot and fresh... delicilous sauce and oh the shrimper heaven... Calories? Oh shad up, You only live once.

  • Report this Comment On October 06, 2013, at 1:24 PM, Bigchefmike wrote:

    I was just there for endless Shrimp..Service was just okay.,the size of the shrimp was gone down over the years. Not that long ago they had 8-10 fresh choices of Fish. Now they have 2! With shipping being as fast as it is today, why couldn't they have Tuna and Swordfish, and Mahi Mahi on the menu? My local supermarket does!

  • Report this Comment On October 06, 2013, at 1:49 PM, normgarry wrote:

    I really do look forward to Red Lobster's biscuits followed by a large dose of salt and butter, but thei Lobster tails are so small they ought to be named RED SCORPION.

  • Report this Comment On October 06, 2013, at 1:50 PM, normgarry wrote:

    "TILAPIA -in-a -BAG" is singlehandedly the most disturbing dish on their menu!

  • Report this Comment On October 06, 2013, at 1:51 PM, Schuma wrote:

    Red Lobster treats its employees like crap. The managers in the Times Square, NY location were involved in a lawsuit for stealing from their employees. The General Manager Eddie Bermudez would wait until employees clocked out and then modify their hours so that it looked like they had worked less. They would also skim from the top of the tip pool and pocket it. They were sued in a class action lawsuit, but it's just chump change for the company. They continue to do it.

    Also, the servers at the Times Square location would never have clean silverware or glasses to work with. On busy nights, they would have to clean them in a handwashing sink. The managers did not care or provide them with the tools necessary to serve their customers. It's a horrible company, and you should think twice about eating here. Much better seafood places out there.

  • Report this Comment On October 06, 2013, at 1:55 PM, tifosi69 wrote:

    "5 thing you didn't know"? How about finding 1 thing that anyone actually wants to know.

  • Report this Comment On October 06, 2013, at 2:08 PM, JasonHub wrote:

    Darden's Restaurants are poorly operated and the food isn't real. I threw up by the stop sign after leaving the Red Lobster a few years ago and have never stepped into another Darden restaurant again. I should have known better when Olive Garden turned me off before the Red Lobster experience. But no, I had to follow my friends to Red Lobster. Fool I was. But I learned then. I wish all you other Darden diners good luck over there.

  • Report this Comment On October 06, 2013, at 2:26 PM, carl62 wrote:

    Red Lobster was once a great restaurant with excellent food and service, but as they grew they lost focus on standards and service. I can get better food at Captain D's for a third of the price with equal service.

  • Report this Comment On October 06, 2013, at 2:28 PM, jbeach1216 wrote:

    I have eaten at Red lobster many times and it has been consistently worse each time. Staff and manager seem to be uneducated bafoons! Dishes come to the table dirty and water spotted and even baked on food. I will NEVER step foot inside one of their restaurants again.

  • Report this Comment On October 06, 2013, at 3:01 PM, bankregulatorpa wrote:

    Gee, it was SO exciting when Red Lobster first opened in our Pa hometown. A daily changing menu of fresh fish. Attractive decor. NOW, the bean counters have taken over; ALWAYS the same three "fresh catch". 86 on the great zucchini. Etc etc etc. Too bad they really don't care about anything but profit. Funny how that seems to be catching up to them.

  • Report this Comment On October 06, 2013, at 3:27 PM, Jim78245 wrote:

    I have eaten at Red Lobster a few times lately. The food was not great but was ok, what I expected. I had my first and final meal at Longhorn this week. The ribeye there was the worst steak I have ever eaten.

  • Report this Comment On October 06, 2013, at 4:44 PM, CCMCFROST wrote:

    Perhaps the CEO/owner/whatever should be on 'Undercover Boss'. He/she/it really needs a wake up call on how their employees are treated. Just a thought...

  • Report this Comment On October 06, 2013, at 5:20 PM, johnnypro wrote:

    I invited my crew out to Red Lobster a couple weeks ago. The food was ok but the service was awful. Cold coffee. No bread. No this or that and no checking to see if we needed anything.

    When the food was delivered to our table we reminded the waitress that we had no silverware.

    She returned later with two hot glasses on a tray and told us that the water was very hot and to be careful. Inside one were forks and the other knives. She told us that she washed them herself!

    The restaurant was not even busy! But I'm concerned that this is a violation of city health codes on washing silverware.

  • Report this Comment On October 06, 2013, at 5:32 PM, Copper500 wrote:

    I worked at Red Lobster briefly. The kitchen floor was so slick, that it was hard to stay standing up. There was chaos in the kitchen as the servers were trying to get the food to serve. The dish room was nastier than nasty, and a lot of the food is microwaved.

  • Report this Comment On October 06, 2013, at 6:16 PM, Vitabrits wrote:

    Nearly every entree you "buy" at olive garden or Red Lobster is frozen. All the cooks do is heat them up.

  • Report this Comment On October 06, 2013, at 6:18 PM, sue4mma wrote:

    each time a try a red lobster restaurant, the carpet smells of endless butter. old, old, trampled on butter.

  • Report this Comment On October 06, 2013, at 6:38 PM, morgainm wrote:

    I worked at the Red Lobster at the base of Magic Mountain in Valenica, CA for 4 years. From 1992-1996, when it was owned by GM and back again to Darden. One of our managers was an ex-general from Imelda Marcos' regime-I'm not kidding. It was the dirtiest, most ragged job I've ever had. My wrists are still damaged from the amount of enormous trays and heavy food plates they'd load on there and make us carry out to turn tables during the rush and make sure their numbers were high. I seriously wake up in a cold sweat sometimes thinking I still work there. I'll never eat at a chain again, I know how unhealthy and dirty the food is. Do yourself and your body a favor and make seafood at home and support your local fish markets.

  • Report this Comment On October 06, 2013, at 6:42 PM, garstrom wrote:

    I used to be on the road and ate out every nite.I enjoyed going out for a good meal but R/L

    was not one of them. Tried them many times and just did not enjoy the food...ended up at an AppleB's

    or any place else.To this day we drive by R/L to eat somewhere else.

    Same with Olive G

  • Report this Comment On October 06, 2013, at 6:43 PM, nbergman1 wrote:

    I completely agree with all the other commenters about working at Red Lobster. I worked at a few different locations while in college. The floors in the kitchen are disgusting. It was hard to get clean silverware from the dishwasher for our tables. Two managers got fired for skimming hours. One of the locations actually had roaches in the dining room. That was fun trying to explain to a table. Glad my RL days are over.

  • Report this Comment On October 06, 2013, at 8:05 PM, miri1958 wrote:

    Yesterday was my birthday and I went to Red Lobster with my friends to celebrate and I was so disappointed. I was asking the waiter for a stuffed lobster and he told me they couldn't do that. I told them to ask because I know they do that and he still came back to tell me they don't do that. He was a horrible waiter. He was a young guy and I don't think he knew what he was doing. We were a party of 5 and we all agreed to never step foot at Red Lobster. It is not what it used to be. The reason that I was so disappointed the most was that I am on dialysis and I am in a special diet and I am normally not allowed to eat out so this was sort of special to me. I was eating something that I am not allowed to it.

  • Report this Comment On October 06, 2013, at 8:06 PM, jonnyappleseeds wrote:

    they get all their seafood from fukishima now that's the rubbery effect from the "hot" water they get precooked in

  • Report this Comment On October 06, 2013, at 9:03 PM, rhclingenpeel wrote:

    Red Lobster is another of the chains that actually take more out of a community than they add. Yes, they employ people, pay taxes, buy or lease buildings,but that is about it. They purchase their products from large manufacturers and not from local distributors. They don't buy veggies, breads or seafood from local sellers. They don't buy paper products or other items from local people. When the profits are made, they immediately leave your community. Even though they employ local people, often managers come from far away, and they do not understand or appreciate local culture or people.

    Everything they do is aimed at getting money out of your community. When you buy from a local owner, you help pay taxes, employ people and lease or buy property -- just like Red Lobster. After that, you support local distributors, farmers, ranchers, fishermen, farm workers, dock workers, truck drivers. When all the expenses are paid, the profits stay in your community. Food is not made in a commissary far away, frozen and shipped in to be quick cooked or microwaved. Local people, cooking local food, with the support of local people. If you buy at Red Lobster, you hurt your community. If you buy at a local restaurant, you totally support your neighbors down the street, around the corner and throughout your community. Don't go to Red Lobster or any other national chain, please.

  • Report this Comment On October 06, 2013, at 9:14 PM, jonnyappleseeds wrote:

    time for a name change to Dead lobster

  • Report this Comment On October 06, 2013, at 9:22 PM, jonharmony wrote:

    My wife got food poisoning at the Langhorne PA Red Lobster. Obviously we will never return to and the Longhorne Steakhouse near my NJ residence closed. Since I don't d travel to DC for the Capital Grill, I guess I am safe!

  • Report this Comment On October 06, 2013, at 9:33 PM, breadman46 wrote:

    Too bad that you can't get a Red Lobster in Quincy Illinois. We have a lot of restaurants here but nothing close to the quality of Red Lobster. Give it some more thought. Thanks

  • Report this Comment On October 06, 2013, at 9:49 PM, booooger wrote:

    If all it takes are those biscuits you can get them at Sams Club take them home and make in your own oven that way you know that no one has put there dirty hands

    on them

  • Report this Comment On October 06, 2013, at 10:05 PM, reguired12 wrote:

    yea, It seems that all those seafood places have slippery floors, Long John Silvers is like walking on a skating rink..One person at Red Lobster to me "just be carful where yoy walk".

  • Report this Comment On October 06, 2013, at 10:22 PM, Dadw5boys wrote:

    What are Popcorn Shrimp ? They are Baby Shrimp fished from the back waters where Shrimp breed. The Nursery and the Breeding Stock are fished. Before the Nurseries were protected !!

  • Report this Comment On October 06, 2013, at 11:21 PM, Baldurdash wrote:

    I thought this was about Mike "Red Lobster" Shannahan, coach of the Redskins.

  • Report this Comment On October 07, 2013, at 6:58 AM, nebulouse wrote:

    Was this paid content? I cannot imagine anyone writing a pro-darden article without being paid. Have you ever met and spoken with any darden employees? Have you even eaten at one of these horrible restaurants? I'm with everyone else in the comments, nasty food, horrible to their employees, and wow. Come on Fools, let the writer know we don't want to see these paid shticks.

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