Red Lobster launches a globally-accented snack menu

The chain takes a 180-degree turn from its popular “endless” deal promoting all-you-can-eat shrimp.

In a 180-degree turn from its popular “endless” deal promoting all-you-can-eat shrimp, Red Lobster is going small. The seafood chain recently launched Tasting Plates, creating a new menu section featuring snack-sized dishes with global flavors. “We heard from guests that they want to eat with us more often … and in different formats,” says a spokesperson for Red Lobster. “The Tasting Plates provide a variety of ways to try new flavors at an affordable price point [averaging $4.99].”

Dragon Broccoli, the fiery-sauced non-seafood item in the lineup, fits that description and resonates with consumers. According to Technomic’s MenuSurf, close to 87% of potential female purchasers gave it high marks for uniqueness and 59% of men found it craveable. Although Red Lobster won’t disclose sales figures, the new items are selling well, says the chain. In January, the first full month after the Tasting Plates debuted, sales were up 10% and traffic increased by 12% compared to the previous two months, per Technomic’s Transaction Insights Program.

Purchase Intent

Millennials were most likely to order the menu item, with almost half saying they would buy it. And men were more likely to purchase the snack than women.


Younger diners tend to have more adventurous palates, satisfied by a craving for bolder, spicier flavors. MenuSurf data supports this preference; 70% of Gen Zers gave Dragon Broccoli a high craveability score.

Selling the heat

The word “dragon” in the name cues customers into the broccoli’s spicy Asian flavor—a profile Red Lobster’s guests are seeking, as revealed by the chain’s consumer research. For service, the broccoli is fried crisp, then drizzled with a sweet-spicy sauce and showered with fried chili peppers and green onions. The same prep and name is used with Dragon Shrimp, a new item on Red Lobster’s Globally Inspired entree list.

Veggie appeal

Although Red Lobster is a seafood restaurant and focuses most of its menu on fish and shellfish, the chain jumped on the veg-forward trend with Dragon Broccoli. About two-thirds of consumers now would consider eating veggies as snacks, per Technomic’s Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report, saying bold sauces and global ingredients boost their appeal.

Profiting from a new category

In testing the new menu, Red Lobster discovered that customers order the Tasting Plates in a variety of ways. Some guests like them as an add-on—a small bite that leaves room for a big dinner—while others opt to order a bunch to share or select a few to make an individual meal, says the spokesperson. “The flexibility of the menu, in addition to the interesting flavors, makes it very appealing to guests.”

The Result

Red Lobster’s Dragon Broccoli; $4.99


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