Red Lobster is closing dozens of restaurants and auctioning off equipment

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(NEXSTAR) — Red Lobster is reportedly shuttering at least 48 of its locations, and a restaurant supply liquidator is auctioning off kitchen equipment from the impacted eateries this week.

TAGeX Brands announced on Monday that it’s conducting the online auction through Thursday, May 16, for select Red Lobster restaurants closing in multiple states. Most notably, California and Florida are losing five locations each, while Maryland and Colorado are losing four.

Nexstar’s KETK also reported that three Red Lobster restaurants in Texas abruptly shut down this week, listing their hours as “closed.” None of those locations could be reached via phone.

In Illinois, the mayor of Danville posted a message on Facebook about the sudden closure of the city’s only Red Lobster and extended his prayers to the affected workers.

“I was just notified by one of our local Red Lobster managers that after 31 years of serving our community, without notice, their parent company laid off the entire crew and closed the restaurant effective immediately,” wrote Danville Mayor Rickey Williams Jr.

“This is despite the fact that they were rated number 15 out of over 600 stores for customer service & satisfaction last year,” he added.

As for the auction, several items are up for grabs – from high-performance ovens to upright refrigerators and dining room furniture. TAGeX Brands called it “the largest restaurant equipment auction ever” on its website. It’s important to note that the items aren’t being sold individually. Each location will have one winning bidder who will take all contents from the restaurant.

“These auctions are WINNER TAKES ALL – meaning, each winner will receive the ENTIRE contents of the Red Lobster location they bid on,” TAGeX Brands noted.

Back in April, Bloomberg and CNBC reported that the seafood chain, which has been a staple of the American restaurant scene for decades, considered filing for bankruptcy. Though, Red Lobster has not publicly confirmed this. The report noted that people who were familiar with the matter said Red Lobster was looking for restructuring advice to address leases and labor costs.

The company has faced some financial and internal challenges within the past few years. Between 2021 and 2022, the company welcomed a fresh lineup of executives, including a new CEO, chief marketing officer, chief financial officer, and chief information officer, according to CNN. All of them reportedly left within two years.

Then, there was the endless shrimp fiasco. In June 2023, the company offered its “Ultimate Endless Shrimp” — typically a limited offer — on their regular menu for $20. The attempt to get more people into the store worked, but it came at a cost.

Red Lobster posted an operating loss of more than $11 million in Q3 of that year, according to Restaurant Business. It’s a loss that parent company Thai Union Group said the endless shrimp deal was a “key factor” in creating.

Thai Union Group announced earlier this year that it was looking to sell its stake in the brand, citing the impact of a “combination of [the] Covid-19 pandemic, sustained industry headwinds, higher interest rates and rising material and labor costs” on profits.

Created by Bill Darden, the first Red Lobster opened in 1968 in Lakeland, Florida, advertised as fresh seafood for people of all walks of life. As of Monday, the website claims that there are over 700 Red Lobster locations around the world.

Nexstar’s Bill Shannon and Brian Farrell contributed to this story.

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