Under fresh leadership, Red Lobster is ready to be the everyman's restaurant of choice for finer dining.
Today, Darden Restaurants and Golden Gate Capital announced that Golden Gate completed the acquisition of Red Lobster and certain related assets and assumed liabilities. The San Francisco-based private equity investment firm paid approximately $2.1 billion in cash for the seafood chain.
Darden put Red Lobster on the chopping block in December 2013, with plans to either spin off or sell the chain. Golden Gate announced plans to buy the chain in May.
Under new ownership, the casual-dining chain wants to take on a more upscale image, says new CEO Kim Lopdrup in an interview with the Associated Press. How? For one, the chain is cutting promotions that emphasize low prices above the quality of the food. Additionally, Red Lobster is rolling out a new plating style reminiscent of more upscale restaurants, with food stacked in a vertical presentation instead of being separated on the plate.
The food itself will not change, other than in its arrangement. However, Lopdrup is backtracking on the company's decision in late 2012 to expand non-seafood menu offerings to up to a quarter of the menu, with plans to lower the amount to 10 to 15 percent by November.
As Red Lobster gets fancy, Darden has been focusing on its most well-known, remaining chain: Olive Garden. The Italian chain is currently in the midst of a "brand renaissance," with new menu, logo and restaurant design.