CBS’s Red Lobster Story Buries Inflation Despite Being About Inflation

The story of Red Lobster’s bankruptcy, as reported by CBS, is ultimately about inflation. But that lede gets buried a minute into the report, in the hopes that the viewer won’t notice at all.

Watch the blink-and-you’ll miss it reference to inflation, which came a full minute into the report:

NIKKI BATISTE: In its bankruptcy filing, Red Lobster blamed failed or ill-advised strategic initiatives and increased competition within the restaurant industry. Red lobster’s downfall comes at a time when eating out is more expensive than ever, with restaurant prices climbing higher and faster than grocery costs. In an effort to bring back inflation-weary consumers, McDonald’s is planning to offer a $5 meal this summer, and Target has dropped prices on 5,000 items.

JILL SCHLESINGER: If you are in the business of luring people into kind of, “have a little bit of splurge”, these are not the times where people feel like they can splurge.

In a sense, the Red Lobster bankruptcy serves almost as a vehicle with which to introduce the McBidenomics Unhappy Meal and announce Target’s price cuts. All are stories related to inflation, as is Red Lobster’s bankruptcy. 

Think about it, a restaurant chain was brought down in large part by an all-you-can-eat shrimp special. Because people saw value in that rather than going to other restaurants where the menu prices were more in line with inflation or ordering from Red Lobster’s regular menu. I know this to be true because the report featured people stuffing their faces with $20 endless shrimp and bragging about it on social media.  

There are times when there is more to the story than just the story. Such is the case of CBS’s report on Red Lobster’s bankruptcy filing, which is really about the ongoing devastating effects of inflation on the American public.   

Click “expand” to view the full transcript of the aforementioned report as aired on the CBS Evening News on Monday, May 21st, 2024:

NORAH O’DONNELL: America’s largest seafood restaurant chain, Red Lobster, is in a serious financial pinch- and filing for bankruptcy protection. CBS’s Nikki Battiste reports on why the once-popular chain has struggled to reel in customers.

NARRATOR: Live Maine lobster, just the way you like it.

NIKKI BATISTE: After a 56-year cultural climb 

JINGLE: ♪♪ Red Lobster for the seafood lover in you… ♪♪

BATISTE: Seafood giant Red Lobster is having trouble staying afloat. 

CUSTOMER: Hopefully, they’ll just reorganize and be back on their feet soon.

BATISTE: The casual dining hot spot has struggled since the pandemic. It’s lost 30% of its customers and has had at least four CEOs in the last five years.

NARRATOR: Ultimate endless shrimp is here.

BATISTE: Also, an attempt to lure more customers in with $20 endless shrimp backfired, costing the company $11 million. Diners would share their tallies on social media.

INFLUENCER 1: 61, wow. If you are a shrimp lover…

INFLUENCER 2: It’s a pretty good deal.

INFLUENCER 3: Me, I set a new record at my local Red Lobster.

BATISTE: In its bankruptcy filing, Red Lobster blamed failed or ill-advised strategic initiatives and increased competition within the restaurant industry. Red lobster’s downfall comes at a time when eating out is more expensive than ever, with restaurant prices climbing higher and faster than grocery costs. In an effort to bring back inflation-weary consumers, McDonald’s is planning to offer a $5 meal this summer, and Target has dropped prices on 5,000 items.

JILL SCHLESINGER: If you are in the business of luring people into kind of, “have a little bit of splurge”, these are not the times where people feel like they can splurge.

BATISTE: There are about 550 restaurants across the U.S., so far at least 93 have closed. Red Lobster says it hopes to keep open as many locations as possible through the bankruptcy process. Norah.

O’DONNELL: All right. Nikki Batiste, outside a Red Lobster. Thank you.

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