Red Lobster and the American dream
January 1st, 2014
04:00 PM ET
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Editor's note: LZ Granderson writes a weekly column for A senior writer for ESPN and lecturer at Northwestern University, the former Hechinger Institute fellow has had his commentary recognized by the Online News Association, the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. Follow him on Twitter @locs_n_laughs.

I grew up a poor kid in Detroit.

Government cheese sandwiches, occasional nights without electricity, long-distance telephone calls reserved for emergencies only.

Yet despite our struggles, my family never lost hope that life would get better for us. We never lost faith in the American dream.

Now before you dismiss the notion that a chain restaurant could somehow be a beacon of light, you have to understand that in my neighborhood, if your family went to Red Lobster for dinner, that meant you were really doing something. It meant you got dressed up in your church clothes. It meant you would be using a salad fork and maybe even ordering the fancy dish you saw on TV. It meant twice, sometimes three times a year, a poor family like mine could order a steak in a middle-class restaurant and pretend we were rich.

This is why when word recently came out that the chain was in financial trouble, I - and many people who grew up poor like me - paused.

Read - Working class' dire straits hurt Red Lobster

soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. bs99

    Red Lobster's woes are primarily the result of not properly managing the brand in the face of increasing competition. The Red Lobster brand has become stale and it's menu boring in the face of many seafood competitors.

    You can't realistically assertain anything about the economic health of it's former customer base from the economic health of Red Lobster. Most of those customers are still going out to dinner to celebrate their milestones, but they are going to other fresher restaurant brands.

    January 5, 2014 at 7:13 pm |
  2. Carn E. Vore

    LZ is a blind partisan hack.

    January 3, 2014 at 12:20 pm |
  3. Kate

    I also grew up in Michigan, the Downriver area to be exact. Red Lobster for the middle class was somewhere to celebrate-christenings, engagements, graduations-and it was a given that something great was happening in the family. Nowadays, in Michigan, and America, there isn't much to celebrate. Most of us are just getting by, driving past abandoned factories and foreclosed homes in places like Grosse Ile and Beverly Hills, places where they never felt the sting of bad economic times. IF you have a job, you have something more than your neighbors, but it's nothing to crow about, much less go to Red Lobster.

    January 3, 2014 at 9:17 am |
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