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Cheddar Bay Biscuits. Endless Shrimp. Admiral’s Feast. Few sit-down chain restaurants are better known for their signature menu items than Red Lobster. But did you know that it’s the birthplace of one dish that’s become a popular menu item at bars and restaurants across the country? Read on for nine things you probably didn’t know about Red Lobster.
Darden (left) was an entrepreneur from a very early age: He opened his very first restaurant, the Green Frog, in Waycross, Georgia, in 1938, at age 19.
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Red Lobster expanded into Canada in the 1980s, and the company continues to operate between 25 and 30 locations in the country at all times. Lots of the Canadian locations were originally Ponderosa Steakhouses that were bought by Red Lobster; many retain Ponderosa architectural details.
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In 2003, the chain decided to offer an endless snow crab promotion, and it was a disaster. Not only was it launched amid a surge in wholesale crab prices, the chain also underestimated how many crab legs each guest would order and how long it would take to eat them, leading to major wait times. The promotion cost the company $3 million, and led to the ousting of Darden president Edna Morris.
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Red Lobster serves 395 million Cheddar Bay Biscuits every year, and you can even buy a mix at Walmart and Sam’s Club. But it wasn’t on the menu until late 1991-early 1992, when chef Kurt Hankins swapped out the sugar in a traditional biscuit recipe for garlic powder and added some Cheddar. Baked fresh and served hot, they were called Cheese Garlic Bread until 1993, when they were re-christened Cheddar Bay Biscuits; according to Hankins, “it's a fictitious name created to bring the biscuits to life, embody the seaside theme, and emphasize that these are not your typical biscuits.” Today, Hankins is the executive chef for Longhorn Steakhouse.
The chain began rolling out their new “Bar Harbor” prototype in 2009, modeled after the architecture of coastal New England. Exterior updates include shingle and stone towers, signal flags and Adirondack chairs, and interior décor changes included dark wood paneling, soft lighting, warm-colored fabric, and nautical décor.
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Don’t order the crab linguine Alfredo if you’re looking to eat light; a full-size portion contains 135 grams of fat, 2,030 calories, and 4,680 milligrams of sodium. Your healthiest option would be a fresh white fish simply grilled, which can contain as few as 200 calories and 3 grams of fat.