Friday, September 25, 2009

Shrimpin' Ain't Easy

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.


  1. Around 15 years ago, I gave up all you can eat buffets because every time I ate at one I came away too full. I couldn't say no because I'm a clean your plate girl and by the time I went through and even took just a spoonful of each item I thought I wanted, I had too much freaking food on my plate. And we wonder why obesity is such a problem. Hmmm, let's see. Let me sit at a desk on a computer all day long then go out for all you can eat whatever. Yes, that's the ticket.

  2. very true, although in the end YOU make the choice what goes in your mouth, and places like this make it harder and harder.

    I stay away from buffets all together, there is something about them as soon as you walk through the door, everything you have worked hard for goes out the window. To much of a tempation I would say!

  3. I don't think I'll be able to look at another shrimp after reading this post, much less going to an all you can eat gorgefest of the little suckers. Eew.

  4. Why are you so damn funny? Honestly, your posts really put a great spin on everything and crack me up. Thanks.

    And I am terrified of shrimp.

  5. I love shrimp. I don't, however, need endless shrimp a la Red Lobster. In fact, I'll pass. Never been a fan of their food. At. All.

    I'm also not a fan of buffets or those all-you-can-eat deals. I think both are a waste of my hard-earned dollars. I would much rather get a single plate of food and either eat all fo that, if i'm that hungry, or take with me. That is much more cost conscious and healthier for me. I'm not tempted to overeat which is what I think those types of offers do for people.

  6. Well said. This encouraged gluttony also has devastating effects on the environment. Our waters can barely sustain the over-fishing and the damage it has caused to the sea beds, etc.

    Just ick.

  7. WOW! What a great rant by the waiter. I'm seriously shocked that there are actually people who strategize this.

    My favorite Ralph Wiggum quote of all times "I heard your dad went to a restaurant and ate everything in the restaurant and they had to close the restaurant." I think it's from that same episode! Have a great weekend!

  8. Buffet is definitely a no no. Why do you want to pay to have yourself be tempted to overeat!
    Prawns are yucky! I hate peeling them. Plus I get terrible allergies.

  9. I cannot imagine why anyone would want to eat to such excess. I've been known to have seconds of foods that I don't make very often but to sit in a restaurant and eat and eat and eat and eat is beyond me. But then again, those who do that aren't interested in being a healthy weight (let's hope they change!)


  10. My 13-year-old thinks he really wants to go to Endless Shrimp. That's an amazing rant from the server, though. We'll stay away.

    Some buffets have great salads. But it's oftentimes a challenge to find *anything* outside the lettuce that I can eat at one.

  11. Great post! Who wants to dine next to "whole inbred families with poor hygiene" anyway?

    When DH and I were young and childless we used to go to these kinds of places just for fun - to check out the scary people and get a "taste" of the buffet life (the people-watching was the point, not the food).

    Do you remember the "30 shrimp please" commercial? Back in the early 90's, you know, the olden days when diners were actually LIMITED to 30 shrimp - like this was the most you could ever imagine. We used to go to nice-ish restaurants and make this request...the servers usually were not amused.

    No question the abundance of cheap food shares much of the blame for all of our fatness. You've heard it before, but imagine an alcoholic living in a 24-hours a day, 7 days a week bar with "all you can drink" promotions. How long do you think she would stay sober? So it is with we who use food as our drug of choice. How long before we partake of the cheap abundance of intoxicants laid out before us every single day?

  12. I don't eat seafood, but The Hubs loves it. We only do Red Lobster once a year, and only when it's Endless Shrimp. Yup, GUILTY! (Well, I'm not, but I guess I'm an enabler...)

    The Hubs had 7 rounds of shrimp, and yes, we counted. (84 if you're interested). I personally think it's gross, but it is The Hubs' big, once-a-year treat.

    Which is not to say that it's right, but...

    And we make sure to tip the server REALLY well because we are conscious of all those things that server (rightly) said. I know it sucks for them.

    Anyway, this comment was all over the place, but a scatterbrained comment is better than no comment at all, right?

    ...Right? :)

  13. I love the rant by Lobster Boy. :)

    But, back to the point of your post: It's not helping people, at all. No one needs to eat that much shrimp.

  14. I've only eaten at Red Lobster once, alas, not for endless shrimp. But my server was also kind of disgruntled. And I believe the amount of food was insane.
    Hey, at least it's not endless batter fried twinkies.

  15. That rant from the server...priceless!!

    Seriously, when I was kid, and granted we were in Alabama and our choices were limited but it was considered fine dining!

    Now... only the ghetto-ist of cities in Michigan have one. I think they need to revamp their image anyways!

  16. Hubby is allergic to shrimp so no endless for us EVER. But really I've never been much on all-you-can-eat because I always just end up miserably full and really not enjoying what I ate anyway. Plus like the servers said they are over worked so you also get stinky service. To me it's just all a lose lose situation and not on the scale either lol. Good post though.

  17. Endless anything...or a buffet or whatever is just damn near impossible for me. I am only now converting to a new mindset from my old, "I'm gonna get my money's worth" mantra of the past.

    Can't blame Red Lobter...or Golden Corral etc.

    Gotta blame me...again. Why does it always come back to that? I hate responsibility!

  18. I loved that rant from the server! lol

    We are all responsible for what we order when we go out- some of us tend to wear blinders when we do so. Last time I went to Red Lobster I must have gotten on my servers nerves with my "no butter" rule that when he dropped off my salad (no cheese or croutons-vinegar on the side) he said, "Ohhh I forgot to tell them NO butter on this!" SMART ASS!

  19. Whenever we are in America, my uncle insists on dragging us to an Old Country Buffet and every time I'm appalled at the poor quality food and the robot-like eating behavior of the patrons. There is no enjoyment - it's all about stuffing it in. I find it very sad and it's certainly helped me change some of my eating behaviors.

  20. Nice post, classic simpsons reference.

    It's our "fault" as the consumer. If there weren't the thousands of constructions workers, inbred families, golden corral groups, eating competition wannabees, and 600 pound guys eating INFINITE SHRIMP. Or,as I saw in Vegas recently, a 7 POUND BURRITO, or FRIES AND WINGS BY THE POUND, or the 86 OUNCE BEER, or going to the plethora of places that are designed for, or cater to people that like to eat quanity, not quality, then those places wouldn't do it. Woulnd't be profitable.

    Shame, I too long for the day when our resturants offer a slew of HEALTHY promotions because that's what we as a culture have come to WANT.

  21. Ehhhh . . .

    I've seen that server rant before. It mostly struck me as incredibly mean spirited, and reading it again, same thing. I appreciate that the server has a hard job and has to stay on their feet most of the day, but that rant is just an unnecessarily vicious personal attack against his customers.

    Honestly, I've chosen to get healthy, but that doesn't mean those who haven't yet deserve our scorn. If someone wants to every once in a while celebrate by going out to a restaurant and eating a lot of food for not much money, I don't think it's my place to begrudge them that.

    That is a great Simpsons episode, though.

  22. This gluttony is bad for the environment, supports obesity, and sucks for the workers.

    Ever read "Last Night at the Lobster?" Great little book.

  23. Shrimps-n-Hoes! Gotta have me my shrimps-n-hoes!

  24. Hey Mrs. B.

    You've got guts admitting your fam partakes of the debauchery.

    I'm from one of those poor families where "all you can eat seafood" was the one of the few times we got to go out "for nice dinners" aside from birthdays. Now that I'm an adult, I prefer sushi.

    I personally am not a fan of RL but damn, I can't get enough of those cheesey garlic biscuits.

    Who's with me on that?


  25. Fantastic blog. I do love shrimp but even at my fattest, one order of Scampi and one order of Coconut was all I could ever handle...even during endless shrimp time.

  26. i gave up on red lobster when they over cooked my salmon for the 20th time. salmon has to be almost rare for me to enjoy that delicate, almost flaky texture. a small wave under a candle flame ususally does the trick.

    im afraid i am personally responsible for shutting down the "endless king crab leg" fest they used to have. no biscuits, no salad, i went straight for the legs. it was disgusting, but i did shower before i went! :)

  27. Dinner tonight is all the shrimp I feel like cooking.

  28. Such a great post! I never go to buffets & all you can eat places because it is a waste of money for me & usually not a lot I want anyway!

    I love your last suggestion & comment on healthy food!

    You know, years ago I could find a meal sized fresh streamed veggie plate in a lot of non health food restaurants. Now, I have to search for the fresh veggie side & then I have to order it streamed with NO BUTTER! They don't even make the fresh veggies without butter!!!

  29. Jack, in Japan an all-you-can-eat buffet is called "Viking" in Japanese English.

    I live close to a US base and know a Japanese resturant owner who discontinued his "Viking" special after some Western customers paid him a visit.

    Some of his staff could not eat for a few days after seeing the North Americans devour food.

    My friend has not read the political correct handbook and went off on me - asking what was wrong with you foriegners? Why do we eat like animals? Do all Westerns have no respect for food? etc.

    I tried to defend us by pointing out Koboyashi san - mistake. I was reminded that it was his job - it is how he makes money for his family. He trains for it and his body is "built" for it. The rest of us foreigners are simple gluttons.

    Note, my friend is a nicest guy - just does not understand western political correctness.

    There is something really "cultural" about our stuff your face society. It must be a learned behavior.


  30. Ugh, I hate buffets (or "endless" promotions). Hate 'em. I've never enjoyed that feeling of stuffing myself until I'm sick. How does that feel good? Sometimes when I go to Olive Garden I'll get the endless pasta bowl or whatever they call it, but I only ever get one bowl, and that fills me up. And, I don't even like shrimp that much, so this is definitely something I would never go to. By the way, I gave you an Honest Scrap award on my blog.

  31. Poor little shrimp... pick on someone your own size you bully!

    I know that the chinese buffet people run in terror like I am Godzilla everytime I get near.

    Bigger is better, more is better. Didn't you know? Family size TP containers at bulk stores rule. I have enough for four lifetimes and give out rolls to my friends!

    OK, the quality thing... maybe I'll look into that. As long as it's in a value pack!

    At Foolsfitness more sanity may be needed? Some settling may occur. Sold by weight and not by volume- Alan

  32. The only thing I've missed from an all you can eat place is the salad bar. I know that sounds retarded but I'd rather have lettuce loaded with egg, ham, turkey, cheese, veggies, croutons, and a heavy dose of blue cheese dressing than the crappy cooked food. It's all you can eat for a's crap. But I do miss the salad.

  33. Want to meet at Red Lobster for some shrimp tonight? :)

  34. Well, I've gotta say ... one day when my husband and I were dating we had been working on the farm all day and we accidentally skipped lunch. We went to the endless shrimp, and we were both so hungry after the long work day that it was a primal dinner: no talking, just eating. We were young and thin and reveling in the deliciousness. We still fondly remember that supper, over laughter about how the waitress must've thought we were hillbillies in our muddy overalls and eating shrimp.

    But that was a special circumstance, and life is different now. Everything in moderation. But Endless Shrimp will admittedly always have a fond place in my heart.

  35. This post has definitely made me NOT want to eat at Red Lobster. And I seem to have lost my desire for shrimp too.

  36. Loved this post - one of your best. Specially liked the "Endless Health" promotion.

    If you want an inside glance at the food and restaurant industry check out Dr David Kessler's book "End to Overeating" He actually attended seminars and conferences put on by the industry and listened to how they plan and scheme. The so-called "food" at these places are purposely loaded and layered with fat, salt and refined carbs AKA sugar

    I say we all need to VOTE With Our FORKS!

  37. Loved this post Jack....I think I'm finally moving past the buffet eating...I might actually be winning at this battle! I love your's to Endless Health!

  38. Just wow. Promotions like this are what's wrong with this country, I mean there are people that go hungry, but there are these promotions, not cheap enough to help out those that can't afford regular food, just cheap enough to promote overconsumption by people 'looking for a good deal' The poor waitstaff!

  39. You know, I often look at pictures of food from upscale restaurants and think....That's not enough food!! But they may have something. It's not the quantity but the quality. They hate it when you go to the 'steakhouse' and order a single dinner and split it. That is only possible because the portions are so HUGE! No wonder we have an obesity problem in America. Excellent post as always!

  40. I just got back from the Endless Shrimp and I am proud to say I had 182 shrimp and they were delicious! I can't wait for Shrimp-fest 2010!!



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