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What's up with the prices at Red Lobster?

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DH and I ate at Red Lobster recently, for the first time in probably three years. With no appetizer or dessert, our bill with tip was $70, and I didn't have alcohol! How does RL get away with charging $27 for average fish? The food was what we expected, having been to RL before, and it's no way worth $70 when there are far better fish places that charge the same. What gives?

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  1. They're under the mistaken impression that they sell good food.

    1 Reply
    1. re: AzDumpling

      Not sure what city you're in. But for $20, I always choose build your own feast which gives me 3 options from a list of many. I usually choose blackened salmon, stuffed sole and crab pasta alfredo. Along with the cheddar biscuits and the salad, that's a lot of food and I have enough to doggy bag for lunch.

    2. It's an example of charge whatever the market will bear. People just keep on flocking to RL even though it is a poor excuse for a restaurant. It was the most horrible seafood experience in recent memory (like the last 20 years) for my wife and me. We only ate there because someone gave us a gift card and were amazed at how many people crowded in there to pay so much for so little in terms of taste.

      1. Unfourtunately, in lots of the midwest, this is the best option for (almost) fresh seafood. I've actually had fresher at RL than most places locally, mostly due to the turn around, I would assume. My seven year old loves seafood, and this is one of the only places close to me that doesn't serve complete crap. The local Joe's Crab Shack used to be good when it first opened in the late 90's, but it got bad quickly, and closed last year. The prices at RL are too high, though. I agree.

        3 Replies
        1. re: madgreek

          Wow...the mere thought of RL having the best seafood in ANY town just makes me that much happier to live near the coast.

          1. re: Suzy Q

            Such is my pain in this God-forsaken place (Ohio). It's not that good seafood can't be had, it's more that there's really no decent place with reasonable prices anywhere close to me, and it's a pain to cart kids around the Cleveland or Akron area just to find something good. I don't want to eat alone, and the wife won't touch seafood, so I'm stuck with RL. It sucks.

            1. re: Suzy Q

              Every once in a while, a RL will get good management in place that will maintain quality standards far beyond the Darden minimums, and it ends up being a surprisingly pleasant place to eat.

              The Ft. Walton Beach RL in the late 90s had the reputation of being a good place to eat, even though it was, in fact, a Red Lobster. And this was in an area with a lot of good local competition. Could be the good local competition helped, I guess.

          2. Just do what I do when I visit about once every 3-4 years. Go in, sit at the bar, starving, hungover as can be, and order something like the popcorn shrimp. That way you can feast on unlimited cheese biscuits (delicious partially-hydrogenated grease clumps!). Order a frozen drink or two (tip WELL - the bartenders HATE those damn things). Popcorn shrimp you can't screw up - it's cheap, bits of battered-grease, you can throw it in a box when you're done killing your hangover.

            They don't generally screw up the basic "classic" items on the menu - from back when they were for "the seafood lover in youuuu". Those are the items that they can do a decent job at - fried seafood platters, shrimp scampi, blackened fish, etc. The lobster - not good, but the tank up front is part of their image.... The bartender said nearly everybody ordered the "captain's platter" and such - they've been on the menu for decades, they're cheap and most of the customers don't know what that there fancy "mahi mahi" stuff is. (She also said they left "excellent" tips - about 5-10%, and they only put 1 basketful of cheese biscuits in their purses typically! lol).

            I can't believe your bill was that much. I've heard they were trying to focus on actual fresh seafood specials, which is a stupid mistake IMHO! Red Lobster is to seafood what Olive Garden is to Italian food and Wal-Mart is to discount shopping.... Lots of people hate them/make fun of them/etc., so they want to try to change their image. But it's not gonna happen! The one we have in my city always has a full parking lot, and most of the people want the basic classic menu items, wanna see the lobster tank up front, want cheese biscuits and don't have a clue what "mango chutney" is. Those are their core customers and they should focus on them - not anybody else....

            1. A better question is what in the world were you doing eating at Red Lobster??

              1 Reply
              1. re: ipsedixit

                Really! And can you list what the heck you ordered?

              2. I'm presuming the prices were on the menu. I don't know how it could have been any kind of surprise. If you know the food there then you could have ordered something you thought would be worth the money.

                Prices at most restaurants I've been to in the last year and a half have gone up....fuel costs, utility costs, depending on location labor costs have increased a great deal....and so on.

                4 Replies
                1. re: ccbweb

                  Were you charged extra for the server's Flair?

                  1. re: Leper

                    This is timely. I took Mrs. B (then girlfriend) to RL 20 years ago for our first date. This was a change from my usual routine as all of my first dates went to Bennigans. But I knew she was special. Anyway, as we celebrate our 20th dating anniversary this year (and 13 yrs. of marriage) I decided that we should go to RL to revisit old times. We haven’t gone yet but she has promised to make her hair all big and order a frozen strawberry margarita.

                    I am totally craving the broiled fishermans platter; if this trip is a moderate success we will go once every 20 years. I will report back!

                    1. re: nypb

                      LOL! Can't speak for everyone else, but I demand pictures of the big hair with frozen strawberry margarita! '-)

                      As for fish in restaurants, and RL in particular, I am so tired of getting mediocre fish that when I want restaurant bought disappointment, I just go to Long John Siver's and pocket the price difference. When I want good fish or lobster, I cook at home. Surprisingly (to me) in the area where I live, Sam's Club has limited but good fresh (if often "fresh thawed") fish, and their turnover rate is rapid.

                      I also loooooove lobster. Last year during Red Lobster's Lobster Fest, I treated myself to a platter that included half a Maine lobster (the whole thing would have weighed about a pound), an Australian lobster tail (six ounces is probably optimistic), and a lobster linguini that required a magnifying glass and a rich imagination. As I recall, it was around thirty bucks for the platter. The only thing that tasted good was the Australian lobster tail. The Maine lobster may have been fresh when it left Maine, but it arrived in Dallas by slow freight train. An absolute abomination! I sent it back. My point: for around thirty bucks, I can pick up a really HUGE (2 or 3 pounds, depending on current market price) spiny lobster tail (maybe from Australian waters, I don't really know) and for another ten bucks, pick up a lot of real butter I can clarify myself, a nice loaf of really crusty artisan bread, and an iceberg lettuce for a lettuce wedge salad. And I have enough fresh delicious lobster to totally satiate me for a good while to come!

                      I think it may be my disoriented and displace California genes, but the more time passes, the more I'm convinced I shouldn't eat seafood in rastaurants more than two miles from the beach!

                    2. re: Leper

                      Oh, cheeky! But funny!

                  2. I accompanied my mother to RL on Friday for a "Lenten dinner". Haven't been there for at least a year or two. We are in St. Louis so yes, RL is about the best we can get seafood-wise - those on a coast, count your blessings!

                    We spent approx. $40 for the two meals. My mother got the "coconut shrimp" which I tasted at her insistence. Very sweet breading but nice big butterflied shrimp. Great service. Salads were fresh (but it was early dinner dining). I got a "pick a shrimp" type of meal - two types of shrimp. I got the popcorn shrimp (yes, I know they are SO bad but they are yummy!) and (I thought) regular fried shrimp. I anticipated getting the large butterflied shrimp like my mother got. What I got instead were tiny things that didn't even look so much like shrimp and were barely bigger than the "popcorn" shrimp with tails. Very disappointed.

                    Another new thing - a special "menu" listing the fresh fishes of the day and the "chef's choices" wherein you could pick a fish (I think there were 4) and a method of preparation (3 or 4 listed). Some of them actually looked good! I don't think the fish were anything special - mahi mahi, salmon, etc. But it's a nice idea. Looked like the special menu was printed every day.

                    All in all not the best experience I've had at RL, but what can you expect during lent. We got there at 4:00 pm and still had to wait 45 min....

                    1. I should have clarified a few things in my original post. DH and I both ordered plain grilled fish dishes. They were about $27 each.

                      Here's the catch though: we live in FLORIDA. There is fresh seafood everywhere and no reason Red Lobster should cost this much!

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: starbucksbrew

                        Begging the question....why were you eating there?

                        1. re: ccbweb

                          We wanted cheap and casual, and we like the cheddar biscuits. We got casual. We didn't get cheap. We won't be going back.

                          1. re: starbucksbrew

                            i went for the first time in my life, a former New Englander living away from the coast. i hadn't had lobster in so long, I ordered the choose your own for $20: maine lobster tail, king crab legs, shrimp and garlic, and crab alfredo pasta. yes, pricey for a chain, but the lobster was not overcooked, the crab was edible and the pasta was good in a way. the cheddar biscuits are also good of course, in a fairly gross way :) so i was impressed actually, b/c i had grown up believing that it was inedible. not that i'm rushing back there or anything...

                      2. As with fara I am a native New Englander, and as with TwoPointers I (now) live in St. Louis.

                        One of my basic sayings about life -- especially food -- is that I'm easy to please but difficult to impress. For me RL is OK but far from impressive. I usually get the stuff that is frozen in most places, such as shrimp, so it's really in the preparation more than the freshness.

                        I can't see spending that much for lobster when, even at the ridiculous prices here in STL, I can buy a bigger live lobster (Bob's Seafood has the best turnover) and cook it at home.

                        My kids love the place, however, and we have one five minutes from where we live, so we go there fairly often. And it is always crazy busy, so it's no surprise they can keep prices high. But $70 for two? We don't spend that much...

                        How I would *love* a good clam shack with whole fried clams, scallops, and lobster rolls...

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Richard 16

                          you..you..mean...WHOLE clams, with the belly? not a strip? for some reason I don't see this at all outside of NE.
                          there are clams 3hrs away from us in NC, but the last time I went to the supermarket they told me to use them that day, as they would go bad "soon". obviously, i didn't buy them as clams are supposed to last weeks. i really miss the whole fried belly clams from the point judith dock restaurants in RI. :( should make a point of a shellfish excursion next time I'm home.