The truth about Red Lobster's Endless Shrimp

Just like the great Bubba Gump said in Forrest Gump (via YouTube), "Shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it." Red Lobster may not offer up every kind of shrimp dish there is, but what they might lack in variety they make up for in quantity with their annual Endless Shrimp celebration. The shrimp fest has become incredibly popular with seafood fans and offers up two varieties at a time of as much shrimp as you can eat for less than 20 bucks (via Delish). 

With such specialties as Crispy Sriracha Honey Shrimp in addition to the standard grilled, boiled, and popcorn variety, it's pretty hard not to be tempted by this shrimp bonanza. Toss in an unlimited supply of Cheddar Bay Biscuits, and ordering endless shrimp from the Red Lobster menu seems like a no-brainer. So is there a catch?

Red Lobster's Endless Shrimp was born out of a colossal failure

Red Lobster's Endless Shrimp is actually a spinoff of a much less profitable promotion the company tried in the early 2000s — Endless Crab. Testing the public's ability to eat endless crab cost Red Lobster millions and resulted in its then-president getting the boot after a $405.9 million loss in stock value (via the New York Post). It turns out diners needed to eat a whole lot of crab to fill up, which was definitely not good for Red Lobster's bottom line. Shrimp are a lot cheaper than crab though — hence the switch. According to Business Insider, Endless Shrimp made its debut a year after the crab experiment ended.

Here's the thing with getting your money's worth when it comes to Endless Shrimp, though — it's going to take some serious willpower. Remember those Cheddar Bay Biscuits? As tempting as they may be, you would be wise to avoid touching those. They're free, you can make them at home, and they'll just fill you up (via The Takeout). The quicker a person fills up on carbs or the array of sugary drinks and sides that Red Lobster offers, the less shrimp they'll eat from Red Lobster's shrimp profits. 

Is the Red Lobster shrimp smorgasbord really endless?

Now for the question on everyone's minds: Is this festival of bottomless shrimp really endless, or will management eventually step in? Well, according to one longtime employee on Reddit, it does sound as though you can eat until you have to be wheelbarrowed out of the restaurant if that's your goal. When asked if the deal really was endless, the Red Lobster employee said: "If you mean that if you were to come in at open and eat til close, yes." The employee did have a strong opinion on anyone who might consider that, though, continuing, "However, that's truly disgusting and you better have a ... good tip in tow."

To really test out the "endless" factor, two employees at Business Insider put their own shrimp eating capabilities to the test and devoured 350 shrimp before tossing in the towel. Sounds pretty endless to us.

To really get your Endless Shrimp money's worth, the Red Lobster employee said a person would have to eat "2-4 (times) beyond the initial meal." So whether it's wiser to spend your money on the endless shrimp special or a regular meal really boils down to one's own stamina with this seafood marathon. 

Red Lobster added a secret menu option to its Endless Shrimp promotion

With Red Lobster's Endless Shrimp extravaganza returning year after year, it's obviously a winning sales strategy for the company. Rather than rest on their laurels and offer up the same flavors, Red Lobster likes to mix things up and did so in a big way in 2019. To drum up extra excitement and ignite a shrimp craving in its customers, the chain announced that in addition to its 2019 shrimp offerings there would also be a secret menu (via Eat This, Not That!). 

Never mind the fact that it negates the very definition of "secret" when you issue a press release about it — that's beside the point. Red Lobster's standard menu that year of endless shrimp included: Garlic Shrimp Scampi, Shrimp Linguini Alfredo, Hand-breaded Shrimp, Crispy Sriracha Honey Shrimp, and Teriyaki Grilled Shrimp. Those in the know, however, could order secret scrimp dishes that were not on the menu, including: Coconut Shrimp Bites, Garlic-Grilled Shrimp Skewers, and perhaps the most exciting of all — Nashville Hot Shrimp. 

As for the Nashville Hot Shrimp, it was Red Lobster's take on Nashville's hot chicken food trend and featured a spicy rub on deep-fried shrimp topped with honey. Some folks on social media loved it, while others called the brand out for trying too hard. 

We should also note that Crunchy Popcorn Shrimp was also part of the secret menu, but that meal is on the menu every day, which again, doesn't exactly make it a secret.