Red Lobster: Sea Food Differently

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Business challenge and objectives: Revitalizing a stale brand in an evolving category

When Red Lobster was founded in 1968, the brand gained popularity by making fresh seafood accessible to everyone and creating a place where people could celebrate both special occasions and everyday connections. However, guests now have an abundance of choices for fresh seafood, ranging from other restaurants to grocery stores, making it hard for Red Lobster to differentiate based on the seafood offer alone. On top of this, in recent years most guests have perceived Red Lobster's food as frozen and fried, not fresh, and felt the brand was too corporate and out-of-touch. The recession made the situation worse, negatively impacting the restaurant category. All of this culminated in 2011 with the lowest average guest counts per restaurant in years.

Instead of focusing on winning the price wars currently taking place in the casual dining category, Red Lobster instead decided to focus on differentiating and reenergizing the brand. The brand set a goal to reconnect with the less frequent consumer base and clearly define the value of its dishes. For that reason, objectives focused on:

  • Driving frequency (Behavioral): Inspiring light users to visit Red Lobster at least one additional time in the next year.
  • Re-vitalizing the brand (Perceptual/Attitudinal): Encouraging guests to reevaluate and reconsider Red Lobster as a quality seafood dining experience at an affordable price.

The research story: Listening to consumers from start to finish