Red Lobster is bringing back an iconic deal to escape the 'sea of sameness' plaguing the restaurant industry
- Red Lobster's Lobsterfest returns on Monday.
- New items include lobster truffle mac and cheese, stuffed tilapia topped with lobster, and new cocktails.
- The chain's CEO told Business Insider that focusing on seafood sets Red Lobster apart from the casual-dining industry's "sea of sameness."
Red Lobster is bringing back a classic promotion to separate itself from a casual-dining industry plagued by boredom.
On Monday, the seafood chain kicks off its annual Lobsterfest. The event has no official end date but will continue for a few months, executives told Business Insider.
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Red Lobster is currently doubling down on seafood to distinguish itself from other chains in the struggling sit-down casual-dining industry. Casual-dining chains have been plagued by a "sea of sameness," CEO Kim Lopdrup told Business Insider.
"We're different," Lopdrup said, referring to the chain's seafood offerings. "We're looking to actually increase our margin of difference, and increase our superiority."
Rolling out new seafood options is crucial to that plan, even as other chains aggressively slash their menus.
New Lobsterfest menu items this year include lobster truffle mac and cheese, stuffed tilapia topped with lobster, and a revamped Lobsterfest surf and turf with Maine lobster tail and a grilled sirloin.
"You'd think that everything by now would be done, but they keep finding new ways to do things," Lopdrup said of the seemingly endless lobster varieties. "Food is an art."
Red Lobster is also adding two new drinks to the menu for the promotion: Lobster Lover's Punch and Tropical White Sangria, which comes with collectible charms.
This year, Red Lobster is also using Lobsterfest to promote its recent investments in sustainability. The company recently launched a new website to promoted its "Seafood With Standards," explaining the chain's promises to serve food that is 100% traceable, sustainable, and responsibly sourced.
Visitors may notice some other tweaks to Red Lobster when they show up for Lobsterfest.
Red Lobster has debuted tasting plates to encourage happy hour snacking, as well as a new "globally-inspired" section with options like Dragon Shrimp. The chain recently made a $50 million investment in upgrading its kitchens, following menu elevations like increases in the size of its shrimp. More expensive than any showy investments, Lopdrup says, are little tweaks, like a recently revamped salad.
"It starts with having faith that, if you're the best, more people will come," Lopdrup said. "Some of that is in the short term, some of that is in the long term."
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