Red Lobster is falling back on a classic item to fend off a looming restaurant recession
As sales slump across the restaurant industry, Red Lobster is bringing back an old favorite.
The casual dining chain is kicking off its annual Lobsterfest on Monday, serving an expanded menu of lobster-based dishes. The event has no official end date, but will continue for a few months, the chain told Business Insider.
This year, Red Lobster is adding four new items to the menu, including lobster surf and turf, chilled lobster and shrimp cocktail, and a mix-and-match lobster tail option, as well as five classic lobster dishes.
As casual chains struggle to distinguish themselves in an over-crowded industry, Red Lobster uses special seafood events like Lobsterfest and Endless Shrimp to set itself apart from competitors like Olive Garden or TGI Friday's.
"We are a seafood expert and Lobsterfest is really about creating an experience for our guests," Danielle Connor, Red Lobster's senior vice president of menu strategy and development, told Business Insider. "When people come in, they really come in to sit down, have great service and great food, and really bond with whoever they are with."
In recent years, the casual dining industry has struggled as customers flock to fast-casual for fresh, inexpensive options and independent restaurants for special occassions. Grocery prices also hit record lows in 2016, causing more people to eat at home. As a result, Wall Street analysts are warning of a potential restaurant recession.
Since being taken private three years ago, Red Lobster has made investments in food quality and taken action to stay more up-to-date in trends. The company increased the size of its shrimp by at least 47% in most dishes, added upscale items like wild-caught Alaska Sockeye Salmon to the menu, and began preparing more dishes, like shrimp scampi, in house.
According to the seafood chain, the investments are paying off. While sales were in decline in 2014 when the company was taken private by Golden Gate Capital, the chain says it is now winning back customers and growing sales.
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