Shady Things About Red Lobster's Menu

Lobster on a plate
Lobster on a plate - Lisatop/Getty Images

In the United States, there are few casual sit-down restaurant chains as well-recognized as seafood franchise Red Lobster. This Florida-based company specializing in fish, shrimp, cheddar biscuits, and -- you guessed it -- lobsters has been sharing a little taste of the ocean with its customers since 1968, growing into a chain 646 locations strong with locations spread across 44 states.

But trouble seems to be stirring within the waters of the beloved seafood-angled chain. In May of 2024, Red Lobster filed for bankruptcy and announced its plans to close a number of established locations in an attempt to strengthen its financial standing. Though every misstep contributing to the recent chain of unfortunate events for the once-bustling franchise is not clear, a select few questionable facts surrounding its menu have us wondering. Could fake butter on entrees, old shrimp, or microwaved pasta have played a part in Red Lobster's current standing? From the mouths of employees, here are six shady things regarding Red Lobster's menu.

Read more: The Most Overrated Chain Restaurants In The US, According To The Mashed Staff

The Butter That Comes On Your Order Might Not Be Real

Lobster tail topped with butter
Lobster tail topped with butter - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

It's basically science: lobster and butter go together like peanut butter and jelly. But if you're seeking that perfect slab of half-melted butter atop the back of your bright red crustacean, it turns out you may not find it at Red Lobster. According to employees, the butter used on the lobster, as well as a number of other entrees, is imitation ... and consumers are noticing.

"As a former grill master at Red Lobster, that butter has been fake for 4+ years at the minimum," admitted an alleged worker on Reddit in a thread created by a consumer who described an odd, fake-butter taste coming from their tail-and-shrimp dish. Though this employee did not go on to divulge exactly what the chain is using in place of standard butter, eaters -- who call out this artificial taste across platforms -- have their own theories. The overarching assumption seems to be that a flavored oil mixture (similar to that which is poured over popcorn at movie theaters) is the most likely product being utilized in the kitchens at Red Lobster. We suppose if you're a fan of super-savory movie theater popcorn butter, this may not automatically be a bad thing ... but if you prefer the real thing, you might find this taste detracts from the overall enjoyment of your meal.

Much Of Its Lobster And Fish Is Previously Frozen

Fish on ice
Fish on ice - s8/Shutterstock

The giant tank of live lobsters in the lobby of every Red Lobster location is not only part of the company's signature aesthetic, it serves a legitimate purpose. Every time a patron places an order for a whole lobster, one of these crawling crustaceans is hand plucked from its water house and prepared right away in the back -- an encouraging method as far as freshness is concerned.

However, when it comes to lobster ordered any other way -- such as the Classic Maine lobster tails or the lobster bits found atop the franchise's Lobster Pizza -- this same level of freshness is not upheld. According to alleged employees on online forums such as Quora and Reddit, any other chunks of required lobster, as well as most of the chain's other types of fish, are shipped in and prepared from frozen. Although it is not uncommon practice for seafood restaurants situated further from the coast to have their fish brought in on ice due to shipping challenges, it is a fact you should be aware of prior to ordering if freshness is something you look for in a dish.

You Apparently Can't Order A Burger On The Rarer Side

Burger on a plate on a dark background
Burger on a plate on a dark background - Amax Photo/Getty Images

"May be cooked to order," reads the fine print beneath the single burger option to be found in the Bowls and Sandwiches section of the Red Lobster menu. This, of course, insinuates that a consumer may order the franchise's Bacon Cheeseburger medium-well, well-done, or even medium-rare, if that's what their taste buds are calling for. However, an employee admission on Reddit casts some serious doubt as to just how rare Red Lobster's cooks will actually go in regard to the chain's burger entree.

On a post in Reddit's r/IamA, one self-professed employee of Red Lobster opened themselves up to questions from other users regarding the inner workings of the franchise. During this online question-and-answer session, an interesting tidbit regarding the chain's burger offering was brought to light. The cooks, the employee claimed, are only permitted to prepare burgers medium-well or well-done on account of an alleged company policy. While it's not atypical for restaurants to avoid serving rare burgers on account of a heightened risk of food poisoning, if what this worker claims is true, then advertising a product as being cookable-to-order if this is not technically true reads a bit shady in our book.

If The Staff Runs Out Of Biscuit Mix, They Reach For A Box Of Bisquick

Red Lobster Cheddar Bay mix
Red Lobster Cheddar Bay mix - melissamn/Shutterstock

Few people would argue that one of Red Lobster's most notable products is its Cheddar Bay Biscuits, which are brought out basket after steaming basket to tables full of craving consumers as a precursor to entrees. These delightfully seasoned and slightly cheesy morsels have inspired countless copycat recipes and online discussions over the years, the buzz eventually leading to the release of Cheddar Bay Biscuit mix in boxed form across grocery stores.

But as it turns out, you'd likely be just fine using that standard bag of Bisquick in the back of your cupboard to whip up a batch of Cheddar Bay copycats. According to employee admission across multiple online threads, Bisquick is used interchangeably at Red Lobster to develop the biscuit base when the staff runs out of the company's signature mix. Though this truth certainly makes things easier for the home cook hoping to whip up a similar product in a pinch, it also makes the moment of receiving a fresh-baked batch while dining at the restaurant a bit anticlimactic. Still, even though the famous Cheddar Bay Biscuits aren't quite as red-letter as we may have thought, we're sure we can all still manage to enjoy their moist, savory goodness -- whether they're made with Bisquick, or not.

When You Indulge In Endless Shrimp, You Might Be Getting The Older Stuff That Needs To Be Purged

Shrimp on a grill
Shrimp on a grill - Mphillips007/Getty Images

Endless Shrimp, a menu deal in which the consumer pays a flat fee for as much shrimp as they please, started out as a once-yearly promotional event. It was turned into an everyday menu offering in 2023, but after extreme financial losses reportedly stemming from the Ultimate Endless Shrimp Deal, the company took a step back and declared the bargain a Monday-only special. But before you swing in to satisfy your craving after that long first day at the office, you may want to take into account one off-putting claim made by a user on Reddit.

"My friend who used to work there says Endless Shrimp is when they get rid of all their old shrimp from the year, so the customers are all getting the worst, most disgusting shrimp," the comment under r/IAmA reads. Although another user on the thread denied this, it doesn't seem entirely implausible when you consider the facts surrounding the menu deal. CNN reported in May 2024 that Endless Shrimp became an everyday event after one of Red Lobster's shareholders thought it a beneficial way to purge excess shrimp being captured during fishing. Could that Monday shrimp on your plate in fact be a near-expired bag pulled from the recesses of the freezer? It's enough to make us wonder, at the very least.

The Pasta Is Microwaved ... Sometimes, In Plastic Containers

Shrimp pasta dish
Shrimp pasta dish - Synergee/Getty Images

Although the majority of packaging and food storage containers seems to be constructed from plastic, it's generally recommended that you scoop those leftovers onto a glass plate before popping them in the microwave to reheat. This is because BPA and other chemicals found in plastic can leach into your food while it's warming, making it a less-than-ideal vessel for the microwave. Red Lobster, however, may not be following this recommendation ... at least, not when it comes to its pasta dishes.

"Red Lobster. Do not eat the pasta," professed an alleged employee on Reddit. "They microwave the noodles in plastic bags and the sauce in plastic cups, melting the plastic in both and a guy like me has to pick the bits of plastic out with his fingers." This is hardly the only reference made by workers to microwaved dishes coming out of the kitchens of the seafood chain, with one employee admitting recently that one of the most celebrated noodle-based entrees on the menu -- the Bar Harbor -- was switched from being sauteed to microwaved in an attempt to cut costs. You'll have to decide for yourself if the risk of a microwaved pasta dish -- let alone, one microwaved in plastic -- is worth the bill during your next trip to the currently-floundering seafood establishment.

Read the original article on Mashed.