Red Lobster tests no-waiter, no-tip service
It's an attempt to lure diners back from rivals like Chipotle, where food comes faster and gratuities aren't expected.
Darden Restaurants' (DRI) Red Lobster seems to be testing the adage "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em."
The chain is trying two versions of what's called fast-casual dining, which is counter service that appeals to diners by cutting out the need for tips while delivering food faster than traditional sit-down restaurants.
Red Lobster calls the new service "Seaside Express" and is testing it in two locations near Orlando, Fla., from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.
At one trial restaurant, customers order at a new counter installed in the restaurant's lobby, then pour their own drinks at a Coca-Cola (KO) machine, the Orlando Sentinel reports. At the second restaurant, customers order at the bar and are served drinks in plastic cups.
The menus differ from that of Red Lobster's main restaurant, with entrees ranging in price from $6.99 to $8.99 and including dishes such as a shrimp salad sandwich and a lobster grilled-cheese sandwich. One way the chain is cutting costs, though, is that diners get only one Cheddar Bay biscuit each instead of a basket of them, the newspaper says.
The menus say customers shouldn't tip, although servers bring food and clear off the tables, and the credit card slips still have places for gratuities, the story notes.
Will the bid to compete with Chipotle work? One business school professor, H.G. Parsa of the University of Denver, expressed pessimism. He told the Sentinel that Red Lobster could "dilute the brand" by getting away from its image as a sit-down restaurant.
Will Darden expand the idea to its other restaurant chains, such as Olive Garden and LongHorn? The newspaper notes the chain wouldn't say.
Dumbest idea ever! Fast food seafood sounds disgusting!!
Whichever brilliant employee at Red Lobster who thought this might work should be terminated...
what a joke
Why is it that consumers have to subsidize the owners employee salary. Like any other business, shouldn't owners pay there employees a decent amount . I never understood that. In college we were paid a minimum amount of 1.15 to 2.00 but we were also expected to clean up the restaurant and kitchen on that amount.Red lobster needs to go back to what it was known for..good food...the last 2 or 3 times, poor quality and a minimal amount of food...
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So far, the chain is only testing the offering in a few locations. It's ramping up its breakfast menu nationwide, however.
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