I’m not a Red Lobster regular, so it shouldn’t be surprising that I’ve never paid any attention to their “Endless Shrimp” promotion. I saw the commercial the other day and just had to shake my head in disbelief at these shrimp pimps.
Let me get this straight, Red Lobster: all-you-can-eat wasn’t quite enough for you people? You had to pull out the “infinity” card.
It only happens once a year – Endless Shrimp with all the irresistible, freshly prepared shrimp you crave. Select from classics like Garlic Shrimp Scampi, Hand-Breaded Shrimp, Shrimp Linguini Alfredo or Crunchy Popcorn Shrimp. Or try our new Buffalo Shrimp. The choice is yours.
The choice is yours.
Between 1980 and 2005, the amount of shrimp consumed by Americans nearly tripled, from 1.4 pounds per person to 4.1 pounds per person. Where did I get those numbers? From somewhere on the internet (research still isn’t my strong suit). That’s a pretty jumbo leap.
Listen: I got nothing against shrimp. It's an excellent source of protein and important nutrients including vitamins D and B12, selenium (a health-enhancing antioxidant), and heart-healthy omega-3 fats.
It’s the “endless” that troubles me, because I know my fellow Man. I know that he never shies away from a challenge, and I suspect that he may bust open his stomach lining in order to try to eat Red Lobster into the poorhouse, not understanding that with cheap product from Asia, he’s not the only one getting fat in the deal.
Like I said, I’m not a big “research” doer for this space, but I actually did some reading up on shrimp and this particular promotion for this post. My favorite piece was a frothy rant by a disgruntled Red Lobster server who just tees off on the company:
This is the single worst promotion ever created by Red Lobster. This means we triple the amount of work we have to do for a lot less money. Our clientèle does not improve with this promotion. Our better customers aren't all that interested in gorging themselves past the limits of normal humans. In fact, this promotion scares off some of our good customers for a while. What regular wants to wait for a table at Red Lobster when everybody in the joint has willingly joined into a shrimp eating contest? Those Nathan's Hot Dog eating contestants have nothing on some of my guests. I think Takeru Kobayashi would tap out at round 8 while my customers have yet to loosen their belts.
Endless shrimp means 20 stops at the table of 3 construction guys who are each trying to eat 120 shrimp. Endless shrimp means lower ticket prices, because who wants appetizers when you are going to try and rupture your spleen with your engorged stomach while eating limitless shrimp? Endless shrimp means slower table turns, because you just have to find room for another round of Scampi. Endless shrimp means cleaning shrimp tails from every nook and cranny of the restaurant (Sir, we do provide plates for you to put those on. Oh I see, you'd rather place them on the window sill, you can count them all there.). Endless shrimp means those families you frequently find camping out at Old Country Buffet waddle over to our stores. Endless shrimp means dealing with dirt bags who think endless means they can take home as many as they want. Endless shrimp means repeatedly answering the question "What's the mosstanybody's ate up in here?" (Often answered while customer is on 5th round of scampi with butter drooling down their chin and pooling onto their shirt. Judging by the state of said shirt, that appears to be a normal eating practice.) Endless shrimp means whole inbred families with poor hygene wearing sweatpants (look ma...they's stretchy!) visiting me every day. Endless shrimp means corporate Red Lobster makes their money, while the server gets screwed. For two months. Every shift.
Then I went and read dozens of message board comments and blog entries, strategizing on how exactly to get your money’s worth out of Red Lobster’s shrimpapalooza: don’t fill up on the biscuits or rice, don’t get the shrimp with the creamy sauce with noodles early, order extra sauce and drinks because the wait staff are running around like shrimps with their heads cut off and get a box to take home plenty of leftovers (not that you'll ever want to eat shrimp again).
Reading all that made me think of the court scene in The Simpsons after Homer gets kicked out of an all-you-can-eat seafood restaurant:
Lawyer: Now, Mrs. Simpson, tell the court in your own words what happened after you and your husband were ejected out of the restaurant.
Marge: Well, we pretty much went straight home.
Lawyer: Mrs. Simpson, may I remind you that you are under oath.
Marge: We drove around until three in the morning looking for another open all-you-can-eat seafood restaurant.
Lawyer: And when you couldn't find one?
Marge: [crying] We... went... fishing.
Lawyer: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, do these sound like the actions of a man whose had ALL he could eat?
Who do you blame for this? People who’ve created the demand for bottomless bowls of cheap crap or big chain restaurants that are capitalizing on what people tell them they want? All I know is that it’s tough to eat right when it seems to go against the grain of what’s popular, of what the rest of the world seems to be doing.
I’m holding out hope that one day the world will embrace the idea that what we eat is more important than how cheap it can be and how much can be piled on a plate. “Endless Health,” that’s the promotion I’d like to see some restaurant chain take and run with. Show me that you want to feed me, plus keep me around a little longer in the process. Do that, and you’ve got a customer for life.