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