Red Lobster

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Red Lobster Hospitality, LLC
Company typeSubsidiary
GenreCasual dining
FoundedJanuary 18, 1968; 56 years ago (1968-01-18)
Lakeland, Florida
FoundersBill Darden
Charley Woodsby
HeadquartersOrlando, Florida
Number of locations
649 (2024)
Area served
Key people
Jonathan Tibus (CEO)
Salli Setta (President)
ProductsSeafood, Chicken, Steaks, Pasta
RevenueUS$2.6 billion (2018)[2]
OwnerGolden Gate Capital (2014–2020)
Number of employees
ParentDarden Restaurants (1995–2014)
Thai Union Group (2020–present)
Footnotes / references

Red Lobster Hospitality, LLC is an American casual dining restaurant chain headquartered in Orlando, Florida. The company has operations across most of the United States (including Puerto Rico and Guam) and Canada, as well as in China, Ecuador, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Philippines, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates; as of June 23, 2020, the company had 719 locations worldwide.[6][1] Golden Gate Capital was Red Lobster's parent company after it was acquired from Darden Restaurants on July 28, 2014.[7] Seafood supplier Thai Union acquired a 25 percent stake in the company in 2016 for a reported $575 million, and in 2020 purchased the remaining portion from GGC.[8]

On August 6, 2014, Red Lobster announced its new headquarters location in CNL Center City Commons in Orlando.[9] On March 6, 2015, Red Lobster officially opened the Restaurant Support Center.[10]


Formation and growth[edit]

The first Red Lobster restaurant was opened on January 18, 1968, in Lakeland, Florida, by entrepreneurs Bill Darden and Charley Woodsby.[11][12] The oft-quoted date of March 27, 1968 is based on the incorporation date of Red Lobster Inns of America, Inc. (now GMRI, Inc.) in the Florida Secretary of State's Office.[13]

Originally billed as the "Harbor for Seafood Lovers", the first restaurant was followed by four others throughout the American South. In 1970, General Mills acquired Red Lobster as a five-unit company and with new backing, the chain expanded rapidly in the 1980s.

A Lobsterfest duo meal

Red Lobster entered Canada in the 1980s, in many cases by buying Ponderosa restaurant locations. Currently, Red Lobster generally maintains between 25 and 30 locations in Canada, the bulk in larger urban centres in Ontario (across southern Ontario plus one in Sudbury, in northern Ontario) with a smaller number in larger urban centres in all three Prairie provinces. It exited the Quebec market in September 1997, due to financial losses, and never attempted to enter British Columbia[14]

In 1992, Red Lobster introduced its now famous Cheddar Bay Biscuits, developed by culinary leader Kurt Hankins.[15]

On March 29, 1994, Bill Darden died, after an extended illness, at the age of 75.[16]

In 1995, Red Lobster (along with Olive Garden and other sister chains), became part of Darden Restaurants, Inc. During that time, General Mills decided to release Darden into an independent, publicly traded corporation.[5]

2009 prototype and sale[edit]

The "Bar Harbor" prototype design as seen at the Baton Rouge, Louisiana location

In 2009, Red Lobster debuted its new Bar Harbor restaurant prototype modeled after coastal New England architecture.[17] The new exterior features include shingle and stone towers, signal flags, and Adirondack-style benches. The interior updates include dark wood paneling, warm-toned fabrics, soft lighting, and nautical decor and artwork.[18]

On December 19, 2013, Darden Restaurants announced plans to sell or spin off the Red Lobster brand, citing pressure from stock investors.[19] This was in direct response to Darden's going over budget on a new digital platform.[20]

On May 12, 2014, Darden announced that as part of its spinoff of Red Lobster, it was converting the co-located Red Lobster and Olive Garden locations into standalone Olive Garden locations.[21] On May 16, 2014, Darden announced it would be selling the Red Lobster seafood restaurant chain to Golden Gate Capital for US$2.1 billion.[22] Darden announced the completion of the sale of Red Lobster on July 28, 2014.[23]

On August 6, 2014, Red Lobster announced their new headquarters location in CNL Center City Commons in Orlando.[9] On March 6, 2015, Red Lobster officially opened the Restaurant Support Center.[10] Seafood supplier Thai Union acquired a 25 percent stake in the company in 2016 for a reported $575 million, and in 2020 purchased the remaining portion from GGC.[8]

Restructuring and possible bankruptcy[edit]

In March 2024, Jonathan Tibus was hired as the company's new CEO. Tibus previously was CEO during the bankruptcy of Kona Grill and the chief restructuring officer of Krystal. Officials deemed Red Lobster as a "zombie brand", and that they were exploring options to save the company, including a restructuring turnaround, fire sale, or a possible bankruptcy filing. Red Lobster also announced that it was searching for a new buyer, and if one could not be found, the company may file for bankruptcy within the coming months.[24]

On April 16, 2024, Bloomberg reported that Red Lobster was preparing to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, blaming financial pressures and an $11 million loss in its "endless shrimp" promotion as part of the decision.[25] The company plans to exit some underperforming leases as well as address other long-term contracts and rising labor costs. The company is expected to continue operating normally during the bankruptcy procedure while it continues discussing with its creditors about a possible bankruptcy debt reduction plan.[26]


A basket of Cheddar Bay Biscuits from Red Lobster

Red Lobster has offered an endless snow crab leg promotion twice in its history (as of September 2003). However, in 2003, the promotion resulted in its parent company, Darden Restaurants', taking a $3 million charge to third-quarter earnings, resulting in president Edna Morris's departure from the company.

The ill-timed promotion was launched amid high wholesale crab leg prices. The chain also underestimated how many times a customer would order more. Further complicating matters at the restaurant level was the amount of time customers spent table-side in the restaurant cracking crab legs. This resulted in increased waiting times in the lobby and overall diminished customer capacity per hour.[27]

In February 2016, American singer Beyoncé referenced Red Lobster in her single "Formation". After unexpectedly releasing the single and performing it during the Super Bowl 50 halftime show, Red Lobster reported a 33% sales increase due to the reference.[28]

Red Lobster introduced a new Daily Deals menu in 2020, featuring Endless Shrimp Mondays and more deals.[29]


The brand specializes in seafood, including crab, fish, lobster, mollusks, and shrimp. It also serves chicken, desserts, pasta, and steak.[30][promotional source?]

Lobster bisque controversy[edit]

In February 2016, Inside Edition reported that Red Lobster used a mix of less expensive langostino along with Maine lobster in their lobster bisque recipe.[31][32]


As of June 23, 2020, the company had 719 locations worldwide. These locations span 44 US states (including Puerto Rico, Guam), China, Canada, Ecuador, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Philippines, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.[6][1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "International Franchises | Red Lobster Seafood Restaurants". Retrieved 2022-04-22.
  2. ^ "Red Lobster". Forbes.
  3. ^ "Red Lobster Competitors, Revenue and Employees - Owler Company Profile". Archived from the original on 2020-06-07.
  4. ^ "Darden 2011 Annual Report" (PDF). Darden Restaurants, Inc. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
  5. ^ a b Darden Restaurants, Inc. (May 29, 2011). "FY 2011 10-K". U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Retrieved April 11, 2012.
  6. ^ a b "Red Lobster Seafood Restaurants | US". Retrieved 2020-06-23.
  7. ^ "Darden Completes Sale Of Red Lobster To Golden Gate Capital". MarketWatch. July 28, 2014. Retrieved August 26, 2014.
  8. ^ a b "Orlando-based Red Lobster acquired by Thai Union and other investors". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2022-04-17.
  9. ^ a b "Red Lobster announces location of new headquarters". Orlando Sentinel. August 6, 2014. Retrieved September 26, 2014.
  10. ^ a b "Red Lobster debuts new downtown HQ". Orlando Sentinel. March 6, 2015. Retrieved February 11, 2016.
  11. ^ "Red Lobster turns 50: Celebrate with Cheddar Bay Biscuits and a year of free food". Today.
  12. ^ "9 Things You Didn't Know About Red Lobster". July 2015.
  13. ^ Darden Restaurants, Inc. report to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (PDF). Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  14. ^ "Red Lobster ferme ses 14 restaurants du Québec" (PDF). BAnQ (in French). La Presse. September 14, 1997. p. A1-A2.
  15. ^ "A brief history of Red Lobster's Cheddar Bay Biscuit". Thrillist. Retrieved 2022-11-16.
  16. ^ Christine Shenot (March 30, 1994). "Founder Of Red Lobster, William B. Darden, Dies". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
  17. ^ "Bar Harbor - Overview". Darden Concepts, Inc. Retrieved April 11, 2012.
  18. ^ Trevizo, Perla (December 25, 2009). "Red Lobsters cook up fresher paven look". Times Free Press. Retrieved April 11, 2012.
  19. ^ The Associated Press Staff Writer. "Darden Looking to Spin off or Sell Red Lobster". Moneynews. Archived from the original on 24 December 2013. Retrieved 23 December 2013.
  20. ^ Staff Writer. "Darden Restaurants reducing 85 corporate positions; COO Drew Madsen leaving". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2013-12-28.
  21. ^ Duprey, Rich (12 May 2014). "Darden Restaurants Shedding Franken-Chain Concept". Motley Fool. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  22. ^ Rupp, Lindsey (16 May 2014). "Darden to Sell Red Lobster for $2.1 Billion". Bloomberg News. Retrieved 2014-07-29.
  23. ^ Choi, Candace (28 July 2014). "Orlando's Darden completes completes $2.1 billion sale of Red Lobster". News 13. Bright House Networks.
  24. ^ ""Zombie brand" Red Lobster flips CEO position to turnaround specialist". SeafoodSource. March 25, 2024. Retrieved March 31, 2024.
  25. ^ Basu, Reshmi (16 April 2024). "Red Lobster Considers Bankruptcy to Deal With Leases and Labor Costs". Retrieved 17 April 2024.
  26. ^ "Red Lobster considering bankruptcy filing: report". Fox Business. April 16, 2024. Retrieved April 16, 2024.
  27. ^ Benita D. Newton (September 26, 2003). "All-you-"can-eat was too much". St. Petersburg Times Online. Retrieved April 11, 2012.
  28. ^ "Red Lobster: Sales surged after Beyonce's "Formation"". CBS News.
  29. ^ "New Daily Deals at Red Lobster® Give Everyone Something to Celebrate in 2020". Retrieved 2021-02-28.
  30. ^ "Menu". Red Lobster.
  31. ^ "What You Need To Know Before You Eat Lobster This Valentine's Day". Delish. February 10, 2016. Retrieved 2016-07-23.
  32. ^ "A Third of Tested Restaurant Lobster Dishes Actually Contain Cheaper Seafood, Investigation Shows". Inside Edition. 2016-02-08. Retrieved 2022-01-26.
  33. ^ "Red Lobster Opens in Doha". 11 June 2012. Retrieved 26 January 2019.
  34. ^ "About Us". Red Lobster Middle East. Retrieved 26 January 2019.

External links[edit]