Red Lobster closes more than 80 U.S. restaurants, including three in Jacksonville

The decision to place Ultimate Endless Shrimp on the menu permanently caused $23.5 million in losses, reports say.

Red Lobster is closing restaurants all over the U.S., according to news reports.
Red Lobster is closing restaurants all over the U.S., according to news reports.
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The Red Lobster chain closed more than 80 restaurants in 27 states May 13.

News sites around the country reported the closures that may have been caused by a failed shrimp promotion. 

All three Jacksonville Red Lobster restaurants closed. They are at 416 Commerce Center Drive; 8720 Baymeadows Road; and 13090 City Station Drive. The Red Lobster at 32 Blanding Blvd. in Orange Park is open, according to the restaurant's website.

A Google search lists the Baymeadows Road and Commerce Center Drive locations as “temporarily closed” while the City Station Drive restaurant is listed as “closed.”

 All three are shown as “temporarily closed” on the Red Lobster website.

Restaurants were closed in Tampa, Largo, Kissimmee, Leesburg, Orlando, Altamonte Springs, Sanford, Daytona Beach Shores and Gainesville. Georgia stores in Roswell, Athens and Dublin also closed.

The chain had record profits in 2020. Net income rose 38% in the fourth quarter of that year to record profits of $6.25 billion, according to the U.S. Sun website.

But since January, the Thailand-based Thai Union Group has been trying to sell its 49% interest in the company.

Its fortunes changed when its Ultimate Endless Shrimp promotion, which had been a limited-time special for 20 years, became a permanent menu item last summer. 

The restaurant expected a 20% increase in customers. Instead that jumped closer to 40%, Thai Union CEO Thiraphong Chansiri said in  November, according to The U.S. Sun.

The decision to offer unlimited shrimp cost the company about $23.5 million over the last half of 2023.

In 2003, Red Lobster tried a similar promotion with crab. It lost $3.3 million in seven weeks, The U.S. Sun reported.

The company has had three CEOs at its Orlando headquarters since 2021.

The chain hired Kelli Valade as its CEO in 2021. She didn’t last a year before leaving to head Denny’s. It took Red Lobster more than a year to find its next CEO. Horace Dawson replaced Valade but he has since retired. He was replaced by Jonathan Tibus last in March.

Tibus is experienced in restructuring restaurants. In 2019, he was CEO of Kona Grill when it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. He led both Quiznos (2014) and Krystal (2020) as chief restructuring officer when they filed for bankruptcy protection, according to Nation’s Restaurant News.

Bill Darden opened the First Red Lobster in Lakeland in 1968. It was backed in the early days by General Mills, which led to rapid expansion. In 1974, it introduced popcorn shrimp. The yearly Endless Shrimp promotion started as a limited-time offer in 2003.

In January, there were 649 Red Lobster restaurants in the United States.

There was no mention of the closings on the Red Lobster website.



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