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Red Lobster, home of the endless shrimp, mulls bankruptcy after spoiling its customers with all-you-can-eat lobster: report

A Red Lobster restaurant in Times Square in New York.A Red Lobster restaurant in Times Square in New York.

Richard Levine/Corbis via Getty Images

  • It may be the end of the line for the seafood chain Red Lobster, per Bloomberg.
  • The restaurant is mulling bankruptcy and has sought legal advice, Bloomberg reported.
  • Red Lobster saw an operating loss of $11 million in the third quarter of 2023 and $12.5 million in the fourth quarter.

Seafood chain Red Lobster is considering filing for bankruptcy, Bloomberg reported Wednesday.

Declaring bankruptcy would allow Red Lobster to keep their business going while it pares down its debts and expenses, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg. According to the outlet, Red Lobster is being advised by the law firm King & Spalding.

Red Lobster and King & Spalding did not respond to Bloomberg’s requests for comment.

The news comes after Red Lobster’s attempts to draw in more customers with its signature all-you-can-eat deals backfired.

The seafood restaurant is best known for its “Ultimate Endless Shrimp” deal, which has been running for more than 18 years. For $20, customers could gorge themselves with as much shrimp as they wanted.

Last summer, Red Lobster decided to offer the promotion every day instead of once a week.

But while the promotion brought in the crowds, Red Lobster said it had wildly underestimated the overwhelming response to this “very cheap” deal. The resulting operating losses would eventually cause Red Lobster to raise prices to $22 and then $25.

Ludovic Garnier, the chief financial officer of Thai Union Group — a Red Lobster investor — said in an earnings call in November that the promotion was “one of the key reasons for the losses we generated in Q3 2023.”

Red Lobster incurred an operating loss of $11 million that quarter. It then reported a $12.5 million operating loss in the fourth quarter of 2023.

To be sure, restaurants like Red Lobster do run the risk of losing money on their all-you-can-eat deals if their customers are intent on getting their money’s worth.

Back in August, a woman went viral on TikTok after she posted a video of herself dining at Golden Corral for 12 hours straight. The TikTok user said she paid $12 for a breakfast set but stayed on for lunch and dinner as well.

But losses from the shrimp-fest didn’t faze Red Lobster. The company launched another all-you-can-eat deal in February — the “Endless Lobster Experience.”

This time round, Red Lobster was careful to include multiple caveats in its promotion.

For instance, the complimentary deal was only available to 150 winning customers nationwide. Also, customers could only eat up to 12 1¼-pound live Maine lobsters, followed by servings of Maine lobster tails or Caribbean Rock lobster tails. And they had to scarf them down in the restaurant’s two-hour time limit.

Red Lobster’s struggles underscore the challenges faced by the food and beverage industry when trying to draw in customers amid rampant inflation.

In July, McDonald’s CFO Ian Borden told investors that their customers were ordering less and switching to value menu items to save money.

The drop in consumer spending, Borden said, was because of a “challenging macro environment including rising interest rates and elevated costs.”

Representatives for Red Lobster and King & Spalding did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Business Insider sent outside regular business hours.

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