Red Lobster’s comeback recipe? Lobster

Robert Caplin/Bloomberg — Getty Images

Now that it is a stand-alone company, Red Lobster is planning to put more focus on—drum roll, please—lobster.

The struggling casual restaurant chain, which was sold to private equity firm Golden Gate Capital by Darden Restaurants (DRI) this spring for $2.1 billion, has introduced a overhauled menu that is much heavier on lobster items such as a lobster scampi linguini, and a roasted Maine lobster bake, while canning non-lobster items like Spicy Tortilla Soup and a Wood-Grilled Pork Chop. All told, the new menu will be 85% seafood, compared to 75% previously, in an acknowledgement that people came to eat at Red Lobster to have lobster.

“Lobster isn’t our middle name, it is our name,” said Salli Setta, Red Lobster’s president.

Darden, which was named for the founder of Red Lobster, sold off the chain after failed attempts to turn the once-popular brand around. The company, which still owns Olive Garden, another brand in need of a turnaround, had hurt the brand with too many promotions over the years and also blamed the growing availability of shrimp at competing restaurants for Red Lobster’s travails.

For its last fiscal year, Darden had said Red Lobster’s sales declined 6% at established locations, caused in large part by a 9.3% drop in traffic. A year earlier, comparable sales had fallen 2.2%.


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