Red Lobster is doing something that it has never done before: launching a new shrimp dish halfway through its annual Endless Shrimp promotion.
On Monday, Red Lobster will begin serving Korean BBQ shrimp as part of its Endless Shrimp menu. The promotion allows you to order as many shrimp as you can eat for $21.99 — likely cheaper in markets outside of New York City.
This is the first time since the launch of Endless Shrimp in 2004 that the chain has debuted a new shrimp mid-way through the seasonal promotion.
“Consumer demands for complex, globally-inspired flavours continues to grow,” Danielle Connor, Red Lobster’s senior vice president of menu development and innovation, told Business Insider. “So, during our ongoing research, we discovered there was an opportunity around shrimp, and that shrimp is a great opportunity to try a new flavour profile.”
Connor says that, with Korean BBQ, Red Lobster helps to convince customers to return for Endless Shrimp — something that is often a once-yearly decadent treat for many customers — before the promotion ends. The dish will only be available during Endless Shrimp.
“We thought that introducing it midway through Endless would give us a chance to drive new people into the restaurant, but it would also give existing guests who had come in for Endless already another reason to come back,” says Connor.
Red Lobster’s executive chef, Dustin Hilinski, says the new shrimp option was inspired by a wide variety of regional Korean barbecue flavours, utilising ingredients including sesame oil, ginger, brown sugar, and the spicy, fermented gochujang paste.
“You know guests are educated now with flavours, and definitely want to travel through your menu,” says Hilinski. “Offering globally-inspired dishes makes a lot of sense.”
So, how does the new shrimp measure up?
As someone who has tried every item on the Endless Shrimp menu, I’d say Korean BBQ is a welcome addition.
With my first bite, I worried the Korean BBQ shrimp, which is covered in a glaze as opposed to drizzled with a sauce like the garlic Sriracha shrimp, would be cloyingly sweet. And, it is sweet — but that sweetness is balanced out by a spicy punch of heat that quickly builds.
The shrimp are grilled and skewered, just like the garlic Sriracha shrimp. That makes them feel lighter and “healthier” than deep-fried options.
The most impressive aspect of the shrimp to this veteran of the Endless Shrimp bonanza was the distinct quality of the flavours, impressively cutting through the flavour fatigue that plagues shrimp lovers as they down dozens of shrimp.
For Red Lobster, adding a new shrimp to the menu is part of a bigger plan at the chain to prove to customers that it serves fresh, high-quality seafood. Last year, the company boosted the size of many of its shrimp by 47%, in response to customers’ perception of the chain as subpar when it comes to quality.
Now, the company hopes that Endless Shrimp can serve as a way to highlight its culinary qualifications.
A promotion that encourages customers to gorge themselves on shrimp seems antithetical to promoting the finer aspects of crustaceans. But, Red Lobster says the two go hand-in-hand.
“We have guests across all 704 restaurants having a good experience and that really builds people’s confidence in us — that we really are the seafood expert,” says Connor.
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