The company says that 85 percent of its new menu will feature some kind of seafood protein, and that it will add more lobster into dishes such as the Lobster Scampi Linguini.
The change comes during what has been a tumultuous year for the restaurant chain, which was sold to private equity firm Golden Gate Capital for $2.1 billion in July. Its previous owner, Darden Restaurants, said it was unloading Red Lobster so it could focus on a turnaround effort for its other flagship brand, Olive Garden.
Now that Red Lobster is privately owned, it is not known whether its sales or customer traffic have improved since the ownership change. But the brand was facing major challenges before the split. In its last quarter as part of Darden’s stable, Red Lobster’s sales at established restaurants were down 8.8 percent. Darden executives said a variety of factors led to the slide. Clarence Otis, Darden’s chief executive, told investors earlier this year that Red Lobster’s surge of promotions became confusing to diners, especially those who came to the restaurant for special occasions. Darden has also said that Red Lobster was struggling to make inroads with millennial diners and high-earners.
It appears the new menu is one of the first major efforts at the new Red Lobster to lure customers back to its 700 restaurants across the United States and Canada.
The company promises the new menu will have lobster options at a variety of price points. For casual diners, it has added a Lobster Tacos option; for special occasion diners, there’s now a Roasted Maine Lobster Bake. Meanwhile, the company is ditching items that weren’t selling especially well. In most cases, those are the dishes that were far away from the company’s seafood focus, such as a wood-grilled pork chop and chicken with portobello wine sauce.
Red Lobster is also aiming to make its menu easier for diners to navigate. Previously, its menu came as five different pieces; now, there will be just two pieces. The menu previously came in a text-heavy format, but has been re-styled to feature plenty of photos of the dishes.
“We heard in testing it helps people explore and find new favorites, and it helps them decide they want to try something new,” said Danielle Connor, Red Lobster’ senior vice president of menu and strategy.