www.baltimoresun.com/business/consuming-interests-blog/bal-in-defense-of-red-lobster-20131227,0,2685452.story

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Bear with me food snobs, Red Lobster is worth saving

By Tim Swift, The Baltimore Sun  

6:12 PM EST, December 27, 2013

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I have a confession to make. I kind of love Red Lobster.

Yes, I live in the land of the jumbo lump crabcakes and fresh rockfish, but there's something oddly comforting for me about the chain restaurant that my dad took me to as a kid.

I'm known for forcing my uppity Maryland friends to make the trek to White Marsh or Columbia or now Arundel Mills! (What can I say I'm a fan.) Once a busboy stopped my party from being seated because the table was "still a little buttery." I loved it.

So I have been watching with concern as my favorite chain restaurant has fallen on hard times. Its parent company, Darden, which also owns the Olive Garden, plans to dump the chain to increase profits. Many analysts say the move isn't that smart and won't achieve the results Darden is looking for.

So instead of throwing Red Lobster overboard, it's time bring the chain to into the 21st Century. Even in its hobbled state, people still love the place. On Friday, a rumor of its demise sent the Internet into a panic.

The problem is pretty clear cut the food (aside from my beloved cheesy bread) isn't that great and the prices are too high. Improving quality and cost controls aren't insurmountable problems. And they have to face that they have forever lost their early selling point: They aren't only ones who can bring seafood to the heartland.

But there's one bright spot: The interior of the restaurants isn't as ghastly as say, the Olive Garden's fake stucco and year-round Christmas lights. The nautical theme isn't overblown and who doesn't love a booth?

It seems odd that people can get sentimental about a casual dining chain, but I'm hardly alone. And Red Lobster -- which has been around since 1968 -- can take that deep-fried sentiment all the way to the bank.