Red Lobster: Tossing Teaspoons to Save Money?


RL01One practical piece of travel gear that’s often taken for granted is the lowly teaspoon.

Eating out, of course, is part of life on the road. But in one of the more bizarre stories of the recession, teaspoons have been removed from Red Lobster restaurants nationwide.

My wife and I were eating recently at Red Lobster when she asked for a spoon to stir her tea. The server said they no longer had teaspoons, because someone in the corporate office figured diners would use less sugar if they didn’t have a spoon.

That sounded a little strange, so we asked to see the manager. He told us that Red Lobster’s corporate office ordered teaspoons removed to cut costs.

I know times are tough. But a restautant can’t provide a spoon when charging $2.29 for a glass of tea?

Next, I e-mailed Mark Jaronski, media spokesman for the chain’s parent company, Darden Restaurants. They also own Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, The Capital Grille and other restaurants.

About two weeks later, I received a response with the “official” corporate explanation.

“Red Lobster has removed Iced Tea Spoons nationwide in an effort to simplify the operational efforts around ordering, storing, using and cleaning Iced Tea Spoons,” Jaronski said in his e-mail. “However, they were not removed to reduce costs.”

Really? Someone at Red Lobster must truly be a master of corporate efficiency to figure out running a restaurant would be simpler without having to store, use and clean all those pesky teaspoons.

Oh, by the way, they do still have spoons for soups and dessert.

This has to be one of my most absurd restaurant experiences ever. I kept waiting for Rod Serling to come walking around the corner and tell us we had entered the Twilight Zone. Or for Howie Mandel to take off his wig and tell us we were punked on the hidden-camera TV show, Howie Do It.

But no, this was real.

Please hit the comments button below to add your thoughts and experiences. Do you think the manager’s explanation was correct—that it was a cost-cutting move? Does the explanation from the corporate office make any sense? Do you know of any other restaurants that have removed teaspoons?

If you want one at Red Lobster, be sure to take your own. Here are some options from REI:

MSR Folding Spoon

GSI Telescoping Spoon

To-Go Ware Bamboo Utensil Set

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13 Responses
  • Jack - eyeflare travel
    October 15, 2009

    I can only imagine that it’s some misguided way to save money or minimize stolen tea spoons…

    Still, quite bizarre. If I was told “you can’t have a spoon” I wouldn’t return…

  • Tim
    October 15, 2009

    I’m almost positive this is a reaction to the rising price of sugar. It’s been a bad crop year in some countries, so sugar prices have skyrocketed. The suits cut costs and then tried to come up with an explanation. (Not a very plausible one.) Considering the margins they have on soda and iced tea though, ridiculous.

  • Kara
    October 15, 2009

    Never heard of this! Bizarro. But now I’m going to ask for a teaspoon at every restaurant I go to. We’ll see if it’s a trend. 😉

  • Jordan
    October 15, 2009

    This was really a big enough fuss to blog about? You really don’t have other things to spend your time worrying about? Couldn’t you just man up and use the regular spoon?

  • JohnG
    October 15, 2009

    Well, Jordan, I don’t think that was an option since they wouldn’t give us any kind of spoon. I guess some people don’t mind stirring tea with their fork, but I was expecting a little more than that.

  • Harry
    October 15, 2009

    “This entry is filed under Business Gear, General Gear, Kids and Family.”

    Business gear? Family gear for the family that sips tea together… seriously? Teaspoons are gear now?

    I hope this isn’t the direction the blog is going in.

  • Tim
    October 17, 2009

    OK, sorry if we offended anyone by going slightly astray of the standard format for one post. For anyone who thought the connection was too thin, we have posted links to three travel spoons at the end. Stir away wherever you are—whether they give you a spoon or not!

  • David
    April 14, 2010

    At first we thought the lack of teaspoons for iced tea was a simple oversight. Then when we requested one, the server outright refused to give us a spoon and cited company policy.

    So basically we spent the entire dinner talking negatively about Red Lobster in the context of other weird and bizarre restaurant experiences. We also reminisced about every bad service incident we’d ever experienced at Red Lobster. Is that really what their corporate management is trying to achieve?

  • Mary
    January 30, 2012

    JohnG :Well, Jordan, I don’t think that was an option since they wouldn’t give us any kind of spoon. I guess some people don’t mind stirring tea with their fork, but I was expecting a little more than that.

    What a horrible experience! I ate at a Red Lobster once…
    That’s it…I’ve never been back, and that was before the evil spoon removal.

    Their food’s crap!

  • RR
    January 31, 2012

    chinese made bulk spoons cost mere pennies each. one can always eat down the street at a place that wants your business. use 8X more sugar and let it goop up at the bottom of the cup.

  • Kellie
    January 31, 2012

    In the past 2 years, Red Lobster has become one of my favorite restaurants. The 2 in NW San Antonio have great service, happy and attentive employees and great specials (excepting of course, the ridiculous price of iced tea. )
    Sugar at the restaurants come in those long packets, now.. so no need of a spoon to measure. I have stirred using either my straw or a clean knife.
    I have used butter knives at home to stir my tea for years, because I think teaspoons are worthless, and the long blade of the knife makes for stronger agitation of the liquid.

  • Debra
    February 6, 2012

    This idea is simple and frankly doesn’t bother me at all; we all have other utensils on our table that stir just as well as a tea spoon. I’ve got no problem with this and if you really look at it would you rather than get rid of a utensil that could easily just be substituted in hopes of A. not spending money on the silverware and B. a subliminal attempt to lesson our sugar use (which let’s be honest, we could all use less of), or upping the prices of their entrées? I’ll forfeit the tea spoon.

  • Rachel Martinez
    February 13, 2012

    I am not surprised at their lack of communication. Changes made but when you question why, no one has an answer. This is not one of my favorite places to dine and although I’ve considered trying some of their advertised specials, after this story, I would never return to dine there.