2013 was a scary time for garlic scampi devotees across the country. Red Lobster’s parent company was allegedly preparing to sell its seafood empire as part of a plan to boost shareholder value. Its future looked grim.
Along with Cheesecake Factory and Waffle House, Red Lobster has maintained a special kind of cult status in America. So who could blame people for mourning the potential loss of a business that spread New England charm to places without ocean views?
Luckily, that talk died down. In fact, Red Lobster decided to up the ante—selling even more lobster-related dishes on their new menu. People let out a collective sigh of relief. After all, what would a world be without endless Cheddar Bay biscuits? (A damn sad one, at that.)
For all its ups and downs, Red Lobster has endured—which is why we decided to look back at the company’s rich history. From the founder’s incredible rise in the restaurant industry, to its invention of a signature fried seafood staple, here are 10 things you didn’t know about the nation’s number one casual-dining seafood chain.
Founder Bill Darden was a restaurant industry prodigy.
— Darden Restaurants (@darden) August 28, 2014
The founder of Red Lobster found his passion for the restaurant business at a very early age. At just 19-years-old, Darden opened up his first restaurant, The Green Frog, in Waycross, Georgia in 1938. The business endeavor was the first of many, as Darden went on to acquire a handful of successful restaurant chains. The first Red Lobster location was opened in Lakeland, Florida in 1968.
Believe it or not: he also dreamed up Olive Garden.
Talk about a legend. Despite his success, Red Lobster wasn’t enough for Darden. In 1982, he opened up Olive Garden, thus creating an endless breadstick oasis that quickly gained fans across the country. Whether it was seafood or Italian, Darden obviously had a knack for selling food.
Red Lobster invented popcorn shrimp.
— Red Lobster LoverJoe (@RLLoverJoe) September 1, 2014
It was in the 1970s that the chain introduced the fried shrimp dish. Honestly—where would Bubba Gump Shrimp Company be without it?
The chain sells 395 million biscuits a year.
Arguably one of the biggest draws to the restaurant is its free biscuit appetizer. People love them so much that the restaurant ends up serving over 395 million biscuits every year. You can even make your own Cheddar Bay Biscuits at home with dry-mix boxes sold at Walmart. (Fun fact: in a blind taste test, an overwhelming majority of BuzzFeed employees picked Red Lobster biscuits as their free bread of choice from a restaurant.)
A botched crab promotion may have affected the former president’s job.
Back in 2003, Red Lobster suffered major financial losses from an all-you-can-eat crab promotion. In an article from the St. Petersburg Times, company chairman Joe R. Lee said: “It wasn’t the second helping, it was the third one that hurt.” Shortly thereafter, it was reported that former president Edna Morris left her position to seek other opportunities. The company, however, denies that her departure had anything to do with the incident.
Chris Rock worked there for minimum wage.
Before Chris Rock became the comedy icon that he is today, he started from humble beginnings. In one of his stand-up acts titled “Job Versus Career,” Rock explains the difference between having a job and having a career. His career? Working in comedy. His past job? Working as a dishwasher at Red Lobster for minimum wage, scraping fish into the trashcan.
Some fans combined the Red Lobster biscuit with a Chick-fil-A patty to create this Internet sensation.
— James Ho (@_JamesHo) April 5, 2015
Most people are well aware of the Red Lobster biscuit and all of its glory. But imagine the joy it could produce if paired with one of America’s most iconic pieces of fried chicken from Chick-Fil-A. Three San Francisco residents made dreams come true when they combined the two beloved items for this holy grail of mash-ups. The Internet thanks you, brave soldiers.
Nicki Minaj was fired from Red Lobster multiple times.
Chris Rock wasn’t the only star known for working at Red Lobster. Nicki Minaj claims she was fired from “every Red Lobster [she] could think of.” In an interview with Hot 109.7, she details her poor work ethic, which included chasing pen-stealing customers out of the restaurant and misplacing nails in the food. Glad you stuck with music, Nicki.
The restaurant has over 700 locations and employs over 58,000 workers.
Cool beans got a job at red lobster
— Zane Feydo (@ZaneFeydo) October 23, 2015
The news world was duped into believing this food writer consumed 413 biscuits and went into a coma.
— Emilie Whelan (@EmilieWhelan) June 24, 2013
Back in 2013, food writer Kevin Shalin was involved in a fake news story posted on the Rock City Times, a site known as “Arkansas’ 2nd most unreliable news source.” The post detailed a made-up experience at Red Lobster where Shalin consumed 413 biscuits (62,000 calories) that allegedly landed him in the hospital. In no time, British news websites The Daily Mail, The Sun, and Mirror snatched the story up and began writing on the hoax, portraying it as reality. Shalin had to take to Twitter to explain to his followers the story was satire rather than fact.