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Alabama losing Red Lobster restaurants as chain closes outlets

FILE - In this June 20, 2005, file photo, a Red Lobster restaurant is seen in Fairview Heights, Ill. Red Lobster is not offering a coupon for free dinners to customers, despite an advertisement that had circulated on social media. The scam, which has since been taken down, asked users to fill out a survey to win a coupon for two free adult dinners at Red Lobster. According to the offer, Red Lobster was giving away the coupon to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Samantha Bruno, a spokeswoman for Red Lobster, told the Associated Press that the company is aware of the offer and that it is fraudulent. (AP Photo/James A. Finley, File)
James A. Finley/AP
/
AP
FILE - In this June 20, 2005, file photo, a Red Lobster restaurant is seen in Fairview Heights, Ill. Red Lobster is not offering a coupon for free dinners to customers, despite an advertisement that had circulated on social media. The scam, which has since been taken down, asked users to fill out a survey to win a coupon for two free adult dinners at Red Lobster. According to the offer, Red Lobster was giving away the coupon to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Samantha Bruno, a spokeswoman for Red Lobster, told the Associated Press that the company is aware of the offer and that it is fraudulent. (AP Photo/James A. Finley, File)

Red Lobster says it is closing nearly 50 of its restaurants in the U.S. The chain says that includes two in Alabama. The locations span across more than 20 states — cutting back on Red Lobster's presence in cities like Denver, San Antonio, Indianapolis and Sacramento. Red Lobster has been struggling for some time. With lease and labor costs piling up in recent years, the chain is now reportedly considering filing for bankruptcy. The Associated Press is keeping track of which stores are being closed with a website that handles restaurant equipment auctions. Tagexbrand.com is selling off Red Lobster assets between now and this Thursday.

The list of restaurants includes the Red Lobster in Decatur on Beltline Road Southwest. The other Alabama outlet that’s reportedly closing is the one in Auburn on Opelika Highway. Nearby Red Lobsters that are part of the current round of closures including a Mississippi outlet in D’Iverville, Georgia’s in Athens, Roswell, and Dublin, and Florida restaurants in Orlando, Altamonte Springs, Gainesville, Hialeah, and Gainesville.

In the restaurant industry generally, the Associated Press has reported on Vericast's 2024 Restaurant TrendWatch. It says approximately 60% of consumers forego dinner reservations in favor of more affordable options, like fast food and frozen pizzas. Two-thirds of American consumers blame increased restaurant prices for the shift in meal plans. That's a 3% increase over the number of consumers who felt similarly in 2023.

Sky-high food costs push Americans away from casual dining experiences and back to the drive-thru and freezer aisle.

Gen Z and millennials bear the brunt of the financial burden. 71% choose more budget-friendly meals at home over meals at restaurants. These numbers contrast with the 68% of members of other generations with similar switches.

Consumers increasingly view dinners out at traditional, sit-down eateries as a luxury they can sacrifice. As Americans work to trim frivolous spending amid inflation and higher costs across the board, buyers note the disproportionate rise in costs associated with dinner dates and happy hours. Restaurant prices grew 5.1%, compared to the 1.2% increase associated with groceries.

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.
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