In 2009, national seafood chain Red Lobster began remodeling its restaurants and menus, "in a style inspired by the New England coast." This fall it completed renovation on all of its eight locations in the greater St. Louis area, and on Monday, October 15, it debuted its new menus, which it describes as, "the most comprehensive menu transformation in the brand's history," in restaurants across the country.
Career fans of Red Lobster's complimentary "Cheddar Bay Biscuits," Gut Check headed to the Red Lobster-Concord (5733 South Lindbergh Boulevard, Concord; 314-487-7744) in south county to behold the metamorphosis.
The architecture and design of the remodeled restaurants is sleeker and more subtle, aiming for a more modern New England aesthetic. Basically this is not the Sea Captain's all-you-can-eat seafood buffet, though Red Lobster's endless shrimp special still stands. The exterior of the south county location now features "ship lantern" lighting, complementing shades of gray exterior walls and a small sitting area in front of the restaurant with new Adirondack-style chairs, presumably extra seating for guests waiting to be seated. And that's good, because when Gut Check visited, at 7 p.m. on a Saturday night, the projected wait time was 45 minutes.
They weren't exaggerating, Red Lobster on a Saturday night is an event. The lobby of the restaurant was jam-packed with patrons of all ages and new guests continued to trickle in. The lobby is a lot dimmer than we remember, and also a lot more sedated. There are no ropes or swordfish plastered to the walls, just some framed maps and photos of lighthouses.
Our wait was made more enjoyable though by another of the restaurant's new enticements, a QR code that, when scanned, proffers "Red Lobster's Seaside Trivia Game." Sure, trivia questions like "Our new warm and inviting restaurant design was inspired by which seaside town in Maine?" isn't exactly knowledge we'll put to future use as contestants on Jeopardy, but maybe it is? (If you're curious, the correct answer is "Bar Harbor." We guessed that one correctly, but only because of the large "Bar Harbor" text etched into the mirror behind the restaurant's bar. A-doy.)
If a bit silly, it's not a bad way to pass time during a 45 minute wait. Before we knew it our electronic holding cell beeper was ablaze with light and sound, and a hostess ushered us to a booth in the dining room.
Sure, so far we were having fun. But would the food keep us on the hook?
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