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A Serious Sociological Red Lobster Query

Driving by our local Red Lobster (which we do not eat at) we've frequently noticed that on Sunday afternoons, it is largely frequented by a mostly post-church going crowd. Incredibly dressed-up people in all their finest.

In fact, there was one day that my husband said we should pop our heads into the lobby to find out what was going on - he just couldn't believe this could be happening on such a regular basis. Everyone inside were dressed like they were at a wedding - we felt really out of place even just standing there.

This strikes as kind of unusual. I mean, it's a chain, right? Or does Red Lobster have some kind of cache that we're not aware of? Are they owned by some religious organization?

I'm not trying to be flip here at all, I'm very seriously interested because I don't see this type of crowd in any other chain restaurant. Or could it just be the area I'm living in?

Laurie

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  1. we don't get this at out local Red Lobster(So Cal). Are you in the Bible belt?

    1 Reply
    1. re: calabasas_trafalgar

      Nope, not by any means whatsoever. I live in central New Jersey, close to NYC, only a few miles away in fact. It's really odd!

      Laurie

    2. Sunday Afternoon a lot of chains get full of the after church crowd. This is especially true of Hometown Buffet which is hardly an upscale place...

      As for it happening regularly at certain restaurants, I think since Red Lobster is considered an 'higher scale' chain, that their patrons consider a chance to go there a chance to also dress up (Believe it or not, There are still some folks, myself included, who love any chance to dress up!). Also, a lof these places are BIG, so they can accomidate a larger party coming from a celebration like a wedding (I actually did have a post wedding group dinner at Cheesecake once... :P)

      Plus, Let's face it, the reason why chains exist is that MOST people go to them. They look at their success ad a validation for them not moving out of their confort zone and eating at a 'safe' place (If CPK is so successful, it has to be the BEST!!!). Plus, many of them equate a certain's chain's image to relect on them and their 'safe' and 'upscale' neighborhood, I mean, how many of us have had relatives happily and PROUDLY report that a Cheesecake is coming to THEIR town... :/

      --Dommy!

      1 Reply
      1. re: Dommy

        Dommy, that makes a lot of sense. Both my husband and I wouldn't have thought of this.

        For one, I'm not of that faith so I don't have that mind set.

        My husband is however, in his family, never in a million years would you go to a restaurant after church - your mama cooked the meal for you at home afterwards. Even to this day you have to drag his mom to eat out, it's maddening!

        We both so rarely eat at chains in general, because we are fortunate enough to live in an area with an abundance of great privately owned restaurants but I can see if you lived in an area where that wasn't available how these types of places would be the "bread and butter" of your dining out experience. Even in an area as semi-urban as where I am from, it is understandable that certain folks would still gravitate to the tried and true rather than attempt something new and unknown.

        Thanks for the other perspective.

        Laurie

      2. As a kid, we never ever ate out after church on Sunday. Mom always had a pot roast going. Sunday was a big dinner day. (I hated it cuz I was left with clean up duty)

        While I prefer non chain places, where I live there are very few non chains Red Lobster is one of the chains by us. There are a few items I like, coconut shrimp, snow crab, shrimp scampi and the biscuts.

        1. I think it's just a whole other side of things. I work with a lady whose husband was taking her out for her birthday and I asked where, and they were going to Red Lobster. While I may not think of Red Lobster as a special occasion restaurant, it was to her and she was excited about it.

          1. I think it really depends are where you are and what's familiar to you. I grew up in a small town in Lousiana. I travelled alot as a child, all over the country and the world. I was lucky to have parents who introduced me to great NY pizza, seafood on the coasts, all kinds of great regional food that wasn't in chains.

            But, I'll tell you...there was no Olive Garden, Outback, Red Lobster, Chili's, or the like within three hours of where we lived. We always wanted to try those places when we were in big towns. We'd heard about them, seen them on TV so assumed there was something to it.

            I remember when the first Olive Garden came to town when I was in high school and that was the place all of the kids wanted to have their fancy birthday dinner out. My dad absolutley refused -- he knew I'd had better Italian food and that this would be a disappointment. Boy, was he right.

            It was a novelty. We had to figure out what it was all about and get over it. I'm over it!!

            2 Replies
            1. re: geg5150

              That's absolutely true. When you're from a smaller town (like me in rural Ohio) places like Red Lobster and the Olive Garden are a bit of a drive and a bit of an occasion. Now living near DC I can clearly see that. It doesn't make that mindset sad or pathetic or anything like that, but it does explain it.

              1. re: navygirl7

                I've found that Red Lobsters, at least in rural MD, are very much filled with the church crowd on Sundays.

                Oddly enough, they're also quite popular with those who, let's say, make their livelihood from trafficking in controlled substances. I have a friend who worked at a Red Lobster and a Chesapeake Bay Seafood House in PG County. He regaled me with stories of these young gentlemen and their female acquantences ordering large quantities of the most expensive items, making a great show of how much cash they're flaunting, then leave a measly tip, if any.

            2. my fathyer-in-law and his wife live south of atlanta and when we went down to visit them last month we went to red lobster for father's day dinner. i am not a fan of the lobster - which my 6 year old daughter loudly announced (much to my horror) when we were getting out of our cars. my expectations were met. i am not above a good fried clam, shrimp, or piece of cod, but red lobster is a fry palace. and i think that the stuff that is not fried is very good for the price you pay - including the crab legs. i went with the shrimp festival or something and it was what i expected - bland. dinner for four and two kids meals was $120. we could have done so much better. i will not go back by choice.

              as for the popularity, i believe that red lobster has done a great job of bringing what can be considered delicacies, or at the least, special occaison food (lobster, crab, and seafood), to the masses. i bet that a large majority of people going to red lobster have never stopped at the fish counter in a market an picked out a fresh pice of tuna, salmon, or grouper and grilled/sauteed/blackened/poached/etc it at home. dinner at the lobster is a noteworthy event for many because it is different and unique. it is a safe family style environment with no pretention or hoity-toitiness with a straightforward menu that doesn't get too wild or push the envelope. obviously it is working because there are thousands of red lobsters all over the country.

              1 Reply
              1. re: xman887

                I agree with the end of your post. Red Lobster is a place where you can take most people and it won't offend. And let's face it, more and more people are going out to eat on Sundays rather than cooking at home, especially if they're with a large group. I've noticed this because of several chains near me (Carraba's, Buca di Beppo, Outback) normally only open for dinner are open at 11 or 1 on Sundays.

                I love fresh seafood but don't mind Red Lobster -- just as I love authentic Mexican food but sometimes you gotta have some Taco Bell. My husband and I would never consider it "special occasion," but I know many who might.

              2. In a broader sense, after any formal meeting some of the participants involved might get together more casually at a local watering hole or restaurant. Many church groups are big on fellowship among the members. Getting together after a church “meeting” requires some place handy or easy to get to, large enough for the crowd, informal enough for people to be able to walk around to other tables, with known behavior expectations, not too loud, and at the right price point. That particular Red Lobster must fit. If you’re curious, stop at some of your local chains on Sunday between 11 AM and 1 PM and nurse your pie and coffee. I’ll bet you’ll be surprised how often you’ll see some people and you’ll just know they just came from church.

                By the way, don’t some folks like to get together and “nosh and schmooze”? Did I get that right? teehee

                1. Hi Laurie! Funny you should mention this, since this is exactly what my family does after church when we're visiting my parents in Virginia, and we invariably run into half their church friends while we're there. I think yayadave hit the nail on the head...it's a fellowship thing. My church in Westfield has a coffee hour after church, my parents church has, well, Red Lobster :) They live in a place with lots of chains and not too much else, and the congregation includes lots of retirees and others for whom going out to eat is something of an event. But I don't know why the go to Red Lobster rather than, say, Olive Garden which is right next door.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: maryelizabeth

                    I worked in one hospital in southern Virginia which had a very good cafeteria. On an average Sunday, the hospital attracted close to 500 diners, mostly decked out in their Sunday finest.

                    Many southern families get together for Sunday dinner after services on Sunday. It is a great tradition.

                    1. re: maryelizabeth

                      Now that's a funny thing. Neither one of them is high on my list of favorites. They may have picked RL because the layout is more open for chatting with/seeing other tables. Or it could just be that the rest rooms are more convienient. That's important to ol' folks. Both places are owned by the same outfit, so they probably are run the same way. If you asked someone why they're going there, they will tell you something, but they might not really know.
                      Have you ever looked around at your church in Westfield to see who's ducking out of coffee hour to get together in a nearby restaurant?

                      1. re: yayadave

                        Actually, at my church people are more likely to duck out to go play golf than to go out to eat. Although people do dump their kids in Sunday School and go to the Starbucks across the street.

                        I still don't know what it is about Red Lobster. The one my parents go to is at least 3 or 4 miles from their church, so it's definitely not convenience. Seriously, I think it's the cheese biscuits!

                    2. It could be as simple as convenience and location, location, location.

                      The restaurants local to me that have this occur after services (whether a mass or service) are usually near several churches. The two chain I worked at, specifically Sundays, had several shifts come through our doors.

                      1. you must remember that for many working class people the red slobster chain is their upscale splurge for seafood.I've never been impressed with them,and never frequent them here in florida,but its convenience to where my mother lived led her to eat there when she was in the mood for a lobster as a special occasion within her budget.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: travlnmike

                          Yes, and in some places it may actually be the nicest restaurant around and seafood is considered to be an expensive treat. High school kids go there for dinner before prom.

                        2. Wasn't there a comedian who did a bit about the folks dressed up at Red Lobster looking down on him for not dressing appropriately?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: weaver

                            Joe Queenan, the book is "Red Lobster, White Trash, and the Blue Lagoon"

                          2. You said you live in Central New Jersey....as do I. I wonder if we're talking about the same place. There's a Red Lobster on a busy major road that is ALWAYS packed. We're talking packed at every hour of the day, seven days a week. I used to wonder what they were giving away in there.

                            3 Replies
                              1. re: sivyaleah

                                Alas...the one I pass everyday is on Route 1 in Lawrence.

                                1. re: SarahEats

                                  I had an interesting Red Lobster experience in Lewiston Idaho while on a business related trip with a buddy. He needed to meet a customer for lunch. We pulled up to the Red Lobster and he looked at the expression on my face and said "this is the best Red Lobster there is. Everybody in town eats here and the food is always fresh." I though, oh yeah right.

                                  I ordered what the group we were meeting with had. Had a perfectly cooked piece of halibut with assorted standard chain sides. Thing is I hadn't had a piece of fish cooked that well in several recent excursions to some high end Portland Oregon Fish Houses.

                            1. This is far from a Red Lobster or other chain phenomena in the mid-sized, kind-of Midwest, super-backwards town where I live (Pittsburgh). On Sunday morning/afternoon every mediocre chain, from RL to OG, the Original Pancake House, and all the regional non-alcoholic diner-type places will be packed to the gills with surly people in their rumpled "Sunday best," while the slightly more fortunate patronize the joints that will attempt a real Bloody Mary and linger over it for a few hours. Going out Sunday morning/afternoon is a PITA. Fortunately, god made golf courses, so there is absolutely no reason to wade into the post-church feeding frenzy unless absolutely necessary.