10) Red Lobster: 705 Restaurants from The Surprising Origins of the 10 Biggest Chain Restaurants Slideshow

The Surprising Origins of the 10 Biggest Chain Restaurants Slideshow

flickr/ Ollie Crafoord
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10) Red Lobster: 705 Restaurants

Bill Darden opened his first restaurant at the age of 19, and in 1968 he opened the first Red Lobster in Lakeland, Fla. Two years later it was purchased by General Mills, who expanded it into a five-unit chain, and this backing ushered in a steady expansion across the Southeast and eventually across the country and into Canada. By 1985, there were almost 400 locations. While the fresh seafood certainly helped to lure customers in, it was a new menu item that was invented by the restaurant, popcorn shrimp, that really helped it take off. While the chain gives off a very distinct "New England" vibe, there are surprisingly only four locations in all of New England, and they’re all in Western Connecticut, near the New York State line.