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Will the Wilmington area be getting a Red Lobster?

Red Lobster

A Red Lobster restaurant was at 4126 Oleander Drive in Wilmington from 1981 to 1984. A TGI Friday’s restaurant is there now. (Courtesy New Hanover County Public Library)

There must be a lot of Red Lobster fans out there, because this seems to be a recurring question Wilmington residents have. The answer, sadly, won’t be the one they’re hoping for.

Opening a chain seafood restaurant in coastal territory was not the best business move for Red Lobster.

Once located at 4126 Oleander Drive, Wilmington [Map this] (the spot that now hosts TGI Friday’s), Red Lobster lasted from 1981 to 1984. And according to Lisa Westerfield, vice president of Edelman Atlanta, the public relations firm for Red Lobster, there are no plans to return.

Red Lobster was established during 1968 in Lakeland, Fla., and now operates nearly 700 restaurants. It is a part of the Darden owned line of restaurants, which also includes Olive Garden.

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37 Responses to “ Will the Wilmington area be getting a Red Lobster?”

  1. On July 16, 2009 at 7:52 pm Vickie Sears wrote:

    Coastal communities and the Red Lobster??? – West Palm Beach, Boynton Beach, Ft. Worth, Ft. Lauderdale, FL….. A lot has changed in ILM since the 80′s….. I loved the Faded Rose, now Circa from Little Rock, AK….. Keep asking them to come back, but no such luck – YET!!!

  2. On July 17, 2009 at 12:16 pm Don wrote:

    She beat me to the punch. There’s also one in Myrtle Beach that is always busy when we’re there, plus I think there are two in the Charleston area. Not sure what “coastal” has to do them not having a restaurant here.

  3. On July 19, 2009 at 6:53 am justin wrote:

    C’mon “My Reporter”!!! Don’t let the company flack hand you such a load of hushpuppies!

    There are THREE in Myrtle Beach alone. Add to that West Palm, Tampa, Virginia Beach, Point Pleasant, Fort Lauderdale, Hampton Beach, Orlando, South Beach, Fort Walton, Daytona, Miami…just type “Red Lobster” and “beach” into Google and hold on. Can’t sell in a coastal community? Fish sticks!, I say!

    The REAL reason the restaurant couldn’t make it work in Wilmington back in the early ’80s was due to one issue – product delivery. Remember, there was no I-40, no US 74/76 bypass from the west, and NC 17 was the only true north to south corridor. And they refused to buy regional seafood from local suppliers. The only products they purchased locally were vegetables. Yep, I bussed dishes there in high school, then went to work at Frazier’s Seafood.

    Folks around here begged and pleaded for an Olive Garden for DECADES….we ate there last Wednesday night and were practically the only people in the restaurant.

    Red Lobster in River City? Thanks, but no thanks.

  4. On July 19, 2009 at 11:24 am walt breese wrote:

    i guess they ( dardens ) think that all of us “coastal folk” go out and catch our own shrimp and lobster everyday, therefore we don’t need a red lobster here!

  5. On July 19, 2009 at 12:56 pm M.S.M. wrote:

    Sooooo … where is the nearest Red Lobster?

  6. On August 6, 2009 at 10:14 am Terrence Stanley wrote:

    trust me, wilmington doesn’t need a red lobster. you’re not missing anything but frozen seafood, good lemonade, and cheese biscuits. What Wilmington DOES need however is more clalbash style seafood restaurants. We have so many upscale seafood places, but we definitely need more fish shacks where you can ditch the tie and just get a fresh shrimp and fries basket for under 10 bucks.

  7. On August 7, 2009 at 12:51 pm joan george wrote:

    Red Lobster was here 20 years ago??
    Wilmington has grown so much in the past 20 years.-I think they should reconsider.

  8. On August 8, 2009 at 1:37 pm Buddy wrote:

    What is it with Americans and their obsession with chain restaurants? These restaurants serve nothing but frozen, highly processed food with barely any nutritional value. Wilmington has some of the best locally owned restaurants that use local ingredients not only delicious and good for you, but they also support the local economy. The next time you feel like Red Lobster, why dont you try the Oceanic or someplace like it instead? Keep your hard earned money here in SE North Carolina and out of the big corporate pockets!

  9. On August 23, 2009 at 6:27 pm mary s wrote:

    we went to red lobster for lunch today in myrtle beach. it was awful. i got coconut shrimp, they were burnt and tough, husband said mcdonald’s had a better fish sandwich. he also got a bowl of soup, he said they must be downsizing becasue there was only one slice of sausage in it… we didn’t compalin just won’t come back, now we remember why we didn’t go to the one here when it was here. they haven’t improved. 30.00 for what??????????

  10. On September 26, 2009 at 10:53 pm Cjordan wrote:

    There was a Red Lobster on Oleander Dr. In Wilmington in the 70s – 80s. It was closed because of not having enough business. If there are enough people requesting one to there web site they may consider looking at Wilmington again.

  11. On October 25, 2009 at 8:34 pm LE wrote:

    There is a Red Lobster in Fayetteville it was pretty good when we ate there last. Great cheese biscuits, nice service. Only 80 miles from Wilmington.

  12. On October 26, 2009 at 3:34 pm Joe wrote:

    There is also a Red Lobster in Jacksonville, NC

  13. On November 28, 2009 at 11:49 pm Terry Benjey wrote:

    When Red Lobster previously open here they refused to offer all-you-can-eat snow crab legs. Many locals were familiar with the Raleigh franchise and this offer. Subsequently other places on Oleander Drive did make this offer and Red Lobster never got off the ground. Alienating customers is a sure-fire way to kill a business. The coastal area seafood line is obviously corporate spin. R.I.P.

  14. On January 1, 2010 at 1:53 pm Bekah wrote:

    Instead of insisting that a national chain come to Wilmington, support the local seafood restaurants we already have. Red Lobster is frozen, processed and imported. Why not support your local NC fishermen and foods? There are a lot of great local places and yes, even the biscuits are better. Personally, I hope we never get a Red Lobster and the last thing I want is for Wilmington to be like Myrtle Beach!

  15. On January 6, 2010 at 5:59 pm Misty wrote:

    Come on Wilmington….support your local community. There’s nothing you can get at Red Lobster that you can’t get at a seafood restaurant in town already. Why would you want frozen, pieced who knows what when you could easily get fresh catch???
    If you need a Rd Lobster….go to Jacksonville!

  16. On February 19, 2010 at 2:28 pm Cliff wrote:

    The only good thing that Red Lobster serves is
    cheese biscuits, and you can get the recipe online and make them yourself. Why would anyone eat frozen fish/seafood when they can have fresh?????

  17. On March 13, 2010 at 9:39 pm vera wrote:

    Durham
    Fayetteville
    Cary
    The 3 I found that were 35-45 miles from Wilmington.
    Why with fresh delicious seafood, would anyone want food from Red Lobster?
    I yearn to be have food from Sumthin Fishy .. what more could one want .. and there are other good seafood eating places.

  18. On June 5, 2010 at 12:57 pm ROBBIE wrote:

    If you think about it. Most of the coastal Red Lobsters are in high traffic tourist areas. Us locals in wilmington know better. That’s why Red Lobster will not make it here in wilmington. Due to all of the great locally owned seafood restaruants we have. Red lobster can’t compete. We do not have enough tourist for Red lobster to feed off of……So Red Lobster can stay where they are with their frozen seafood combo’s. LOL

  19. On June 25, 2010 at 1:45 pm Home is Here wrote:

    I agree with the poster that we need a large calabash style seafood “shack” ala the old Pier 20 restaurant. Hands down, the best in town now is Pirate’s Table for a fried combo meal with all the trimmings. But the location is not where people from out of town can find it. Hey, I see there is plenty of room at Mayfaire.

  20. On August 8, 2010 at 12:56 pm janet cutshall wrote:

    Chain vs local? Local wins every time! Frozen vs fresh?
    No contest. Can’t see why anyone in the Wilmington area would pine for a Red Lobster!

  21. On August 8, 2010 at 7:06 pm J. Fountain wrote:

    Honestly, if you have ever eaten the frozen food at Red Lobster, then eaten FRESH seafood from a local restaurant, you’d know why the Red Lobster here closed after only 3 years.

  22. On August 21, 2010 at 11:52 am Mike wrote:

    The coastal communities mentioned that Red Lobster is out are all high tourist locations. People coming to the coast thinking they are going to a seafood house with local seafood. That’s the real reason Red Lobster did not make it in Wilmington in the ’80s. Today though it may be different since the tourist population has increase. I went to Red Lobster once while it was in Wilmington and have never been to another. Haven’t missed it one bit. Give me an old fashion seafood house any day if you want good seafood..

  23. On September 23, 2010 at 12:19 pm YouSayTomatoIsayTomatoe wrote:

    Go eat at

    Catch Restaurant
    6623 Market Street
    Wilmington NC 28405
    http://www.catchwilmingtonnc.com/

    You will quickly forget you ever knew there was or heard of Red Lobster!

  24. On September 26, 2010 at 10:25 am Terri Mann wrote:

    I remember Red Lobster, and it was OK, but fresh Wilmington Seafood is so much better than frozen! I LOVED Frazier’s. Midtown Mediterrean Seafood is excellent! Those of us raised on local seafood are still a bit particular. I bought some local, fresh caught shrimp yesterday and it is wonderful!

  25. On October 22, 2010 at 11:49 pm Charley Tuna wrote:

    Why would I want to eat imported seafood that was most likely harvested in a non-sustainable fashion? Go to the link below to get a guide on what products to buy and NOT BUY if you care about keeping fisheries healthy.

    http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/cr_seafoodwatch/download.aspx

  26. On November 2, 2010 at 3:26 pm Matthew Boone wrote:

    Can you put Red Lobster in Wilmington NC, and it need some seafood there and nobody have to drive 55 miles to get Red Lobster and it burning gas and they need create jobs in Wilmington NC, and they can go out on weekends.

  27. On January 25, 2011 at 10:54 am WNJONESJR wrote:

    THE REASON MANY PEOPLE WLD ASK AND WONDER IF WE HAVE SUCH PLACES HERE IN WILMINGTON IS BECAUSE OF COMMERCIALS ON TV THAT COMES ON TV SHOWS SOME PLACES WE DONT EVEN HAVE IN WILMINGTON NC. IF WE HAVE THEM ITS OK BUT WHY COMMERCIAL SOMETHING WE DONT HAVE?? THIS IS WHY MANY ASKED OF LOBSTER HOUSE AND IM RIGHT BEHIND TGIF AND REMEMBER IT WHEN I WAS LITTLE WHILE I USED TO LIVE IN PINE VALLEY WHEN I WAS YOUNGER THEN LATER TURNED TO ANNABELLES NOW WHICH I THOUGHT WAS THE BUILDING AND NOT TGIF. ALSO I DO WONDER WHERE LAZY BOY FURN STORE IS USED TO BE A LOCATION OF A BIGGER LAKE??? HAVE THEY FILLED LAND IN IT AND NOW HAS A SMALL LAKE BEHIND IT IS SMALLER PART OF WHATS LEFT OF THE BIGGER LAKE?? I DO REMEMBER THIS AS WELL WHEN I WAS LITTLE I ALWAYS LOVE LOOKIN AT THIS LARGE LAKE AS I GO BY WHEN SOMEONE DRIVES BY THEN I LOOK AT THAT LOCATION AND REMEMBER IT WAS REALLY BIG LAKE. NOW I DO WONDER IF THE BUILDING WILL STAND FOREVER SINCE IT USED TO BE A LAKE WHERE IT SITTING ON???? ALSO SHELL ISLAND IS SITTING ON LAND WHERE THE LAND DONT EVEN EXISTS ON OLD OLD MAP OF WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH AS WELL SINCE THIS LAND WAS DUMPED AND ADDED ON TO BUILD SHELL ISLAND RESORT. NEXT HURRICANE COMES THAT WILL BE MORE THAN A VERY STRONG CAT 5 OR MORE WILL SINK THAT BUILDING IN THE WATER SINCE THE LAND IS NOT AN ORIGINAL LAND BECAUSE I DO REMEMEBR THE STRETCH OF LAND STOPPED WHERE HOWARD JOHNSON AND THEIR TENNIS COURT IS BY THE ROAD THEN BACK SO FURTHER THAN THAT WAS THE DEAD END THEN WATER AFTER THAT!!!

  28. On June 3, 2011 at 1:36 am anita russo wrote:

    I totally agree with the person about watching the Red Lobster commercials. They sure make everything look so good on TV, But it sure isn’t what you get when you go there. Plus try taking a family of 4 to 6 out to eat there you better hope you and your spouse have a good paying job.I was a front of the house manager at Pirates Table from 1988 to 1998 and beleive me you will not find a better local seafood restaurant, where you get the quality, and quantity of food on your plate for the money as you get at the Pirate’s Table. And some of you may think Something Fishy does but guess what they use to be the same owners of the Pirate’s Table, that’s who I first started working for.But all in all there both good that’s why Red Lobster cannot compete with them and yes I tried for years to get the pirate’s table to move to college road and had he listened to me all those years ago he would still be kicking ass. X empoyee of both restaurants.

  29. On February 13, 2012 at 7:21 pm Cory G wrote:

    The Reporter is absolutely right. I was in the first MBA program at UNCW and we studied the Red Lobster issue in Wilmington.
    Frankly, the locals did not want seafood that was not fresh. Red Lobster was the only seafood restaurant that did NOT serve fresh seafood.

    Red Lobster even changed their menu just for the local Wilmington tastes, yet it was too late and they could not survive. At that time, it was the only Red Lobster to alter their standard menu.

    Locals who live on the water DO want fresh seafood.

  30. On February 22, 2012 at 7:16 pm Rameriz wrote:

    We Need a Red Lobster here in Wilmington ND I DON’T KNOW why not have a red lobster and we don’t have too go to raleigh and thats what people do and make wilmington nc number 1 on the spot for restaurant in south eastern north carolina and we need more seafood and all yall need to think and we can stay in wilmington nc and morehead city need one too.

  31. On April 25, 2012 at 12:08 pm Dave c wrote:

    Please, please, please…let’s hope Red Lobster NEVER opens here. Red Lobsters belong in places like Burlington, Fayettville and Goldsboro…right next to Walmart! They buy frozen junk from Asia and deep fry it, no real contribution to our local seafood folks. Buy local/eat local folks, if you want nasty fried chain food, move!

  32. On November 10, 2012 at 5:11 pm joan mathews wrote:

    I have heard lots of people say Red Bone Alley Restaurant in Florence is good. It has a variety of foods, a big icecream venue, and a place designed for kids to play. Someone in Wilmington should suggest getting one.To order, call the Red Bone Foods office at 843-673-9584.

    .Tour Bus Information
    Red Bone Alley goes the extra mile for tour bus groups! We let each of your passengers choose from a preset menu. We’ve even included tax and tip in the cost. It’s easy – just click here for more information or contact us to schedule your visit.

    .To order, call the Red Bone Foods office at 843-673-9584.

    .Tour Bus Information
    Red Bone Alley goes the extra mile for tour bus groups! We let each of your passengers choose from a preset menu. We’ve even included tax and tip in the cost. It’s easy – just click here for more information or contact us to schedule your visit.

  33. On March 6, 2013 at 3:19 pm jm wrote:

    This person should email RedBone Alley Restaurant in Florence and have them come to Wilmington. They even have a childrens area and an icecream bar with sundaes, etc.

  34. On March 16, 2013 at 9:46 am Wilminton/Carolina Beach Local wrote:

    Take it from someone who grew up in this coastal area and worked in the seafood restaraunts. I worked in a place sitting right on the water. We had great food and couldn’t keep the customers out if we tried. But please don’t let the local businesses fool you. They don’t buy all of their seafood local. I know this because I unpacked the cases of frozen shrimp,lobster,clams,fish etc. when they all came in on the trucks. And yes, there were some things we bought locally when we were having a special or something like. Check your local seafood markets and read some labels. People never have a clue, they just know what they are told. Don’t get me wrong, I do and am supporting local businesses as I have family members with local businesses. But please pull the curtain back before you start guess whats on the other side of the window. Bringing new businesses to Wilmington should not hurt our local businesses, but it will sure help our unemployment level and economy. Thanks for your time.

  35. On March 25, 2013 at 1:52 am Peter Ashley wrote:

    I am all for supporting local business especially restaurants but besides Something Fishy the local shops are very overpriced. I used to live in Charlotte and frequented the RL there. The lunch menu is great and the dinners while more expensive are pretty economical, and as an earlier writer noted the locally owned places are not always using localally harvested product.

  36. On April 16, 2013 at 10:43 am SHERRY USSERY wrote:

    RED LOBSTER IS MISSING OUT, ALOT HAS CHANGED SINCE THE 1980′S, I BELIEVE THEY WOULD MAKE IT NOW, WE DON’T HAVE GORES FISH CAMP ANYMORE,
    WE DON’T HAVE FAIRCLOTHS AT THE WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH BRIDGE ANY MORE, WHAT WE HAVE IS JUST A FEW THAT CARRY GOOD SEA FOOD, ITS HARD TO GET GOOD SEAFOOD HERE ON THE COAST, ISN’T THAT CRAZY? IAM TIRED OF FROZEN SHRIMP, FROZEN FISH, FLOWN IN HERE FROM OTHER PLACES, WE LIVE ON THE COAST WE SHOULD HAVE FRESH SEAFOOD ALL THE TIME. RED LOBSTER NEEDS TO THINK THIS OVER AND GIVE IT ANOTHER TRY.

  37. On June 14, 2013 at 2:57 pm Glor wrote:

    Red Lobster has improved there menu since 1980′s . They could
    compete with the best wilmington offers.



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