Red Lobster tripped up with langostino use
Lobsterfest, which takes place annually from early February through April (it ends 24 April this year), is one of Red Lobster’s most successful promotions, and it means serious business for the Orlando, Fla.-based company with more than 700 restaurants in the U.S. and Canada.
However, after being called out in an “Inside Edition” TV segment earlier this year that alleged Red Lobster was using langostino rather than lobster in its lobster bisque, the chain is now using extra caution in its menu labeling, especially in its extremely popular Lobsterfest specials.
“The Lobsterfest dishes that include langostino are all clearly labeled as such on the menu,” Erica Ettori, director of communications and external relations for Red Lobster, told SeafoodSource.
“Inside Edition” called out Red Lobster in February, saying that it tested two bowls of the chain’s lobster bisque and found that one contained lobster and langostino, which is most closely related to a hermit crab, and one had only langostino.
In response, Red Lobster issued this statement: “We serve a variety of lobster, including North American lobster, Maine lobster, rock lobster and langostino lobster. Our most recent recipe of lobster bisque is made with a combination of Maine lobster and langostino lobster. We question the validity of Inside Edition's test where they found one cup of bisque that only contained langostino lobster. We are planning to revise our menu to inform guests that the lobster bisque contains both Maine lobster and langostino lobster.”
Whether or not the “Inside Edition” claims are true, it is necessary for restaurant companies like Red Lobster to be more transparent, Darren Tristano, president of foodservice consulting firm Technomic, told SeafoodSource.
“One of today’s biggest consumer trends is transparency,” Tristano said. “Consumers expect – and in some cases demand – that restaurants disclose the facts about nutrition, sourcing, sustainability and how the food was raised, farmed or caught. With this in mind, it is essential for restaurant operators to provide higher levels of transparency and follow through with their claims to continue to build trust and connection with their customers.”
Given the difference between lobster and langostino, “reasonable consumers would expect restaurants to disclose which ingredients are being used as a substitute or additional filler like whitefish,” Tristano said. “The difference in price for the ingredients would support the need to disclose, as consumers believe they are paying for and getting a premium meal.”
For Lobsterfest, Red Lobster brought back two of the most popular dishes from last year: “Lobster Lover’s Dream” and “Dueling Lobster Tails.” In addition, the chain’s chef team “tapped into the trend of re-inventing comfort foods by topping a roasted Maine lobster tail with langostino lobster mac-and-cheese to add a new twist to the ‘Dueling Lobster Tails’ dish,” Ettori said.
The Lobsterfest menu offers three different types of lobster – Maine, rock and langostino, sourced from Red Lobster’s “network of longtime, trusted suppliers in the United States, the Caribbean and Chile,” Ettori said. “Our Canadian restaurants use maritime lobster, which is sourced from Canada’s eastern provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.”
The restaurant chain does not rely solely on Maine lobster because, “As a seafood expert, we understand that the seasonality and supply of lobster in Maine and elsewhere in our supplier network fluctuates, and we adjust with our suppliers as necessary to ensure we serve our guests the high quality lobster they expect at our restaurants,” Ettori said.
Now that Red Lobster is wrapping up its Lobsterfest promotion, the chain brought back its “Create Your Own Seafood Trio” event on 25 April. For a limited time, restaurant guests can create “their perfect plate” for USD 15.99 (EUR 14.11) each by choosing one dish from each of three different categories – “Pasta Specialties,” “Twists on Classics” and “Wood-Grilled Selections.”