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Red Lobster superfans desperately want a piece of the bankrupt chain

Grace Eliza Goodwin   

Red Lobster superfans desperately want a piece of the bankrupt chain
  • Red Lobster fans clamored for sentimental items from the iconic chain, but they were out of luck.
  • The contents of each shuttered location were only auctioned off en masse, winner takes all.

Red Lobster superfans were desperate to get their hands on sentimental items from the iconic restaurant chain before dozens of locations were laid to rest.

Some love the restaurant so much that they wanted to buy their favorite tables before they were gone, according to a liquidator who auctioned off everything inside the stores.

Red Lobster, the largest seafood restaurant chain in the world, began abruptly closing stores across the country last week. As of May 15, at least 99 locations had closed in at least 27 states, ABC News reported.

Then, on Monday, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Among the reasons: Its iconic endless-shrimp promotion cost the chain millions.

With so many locations shuttering their doors, the equipment inside had to go somewhere, so Red Lobster hired TAGeX Brands, a liquidation company charged with auctioning off the entire contents of 52 locations.

But rather than sell off all those lobster tanks and fish fryers piecemeal, TAGeX held one auction for each location — winner takes all.

TAGeX's founder and CEO, Neal Sherman, told Business Insider that only two groups of people participated in the auctions: wholesalers of used equipment and restaurant operators.

But that left out the superfans who just wanted a piece of the pie for sentimental reasons, and Sherman said hundreds of them reached out to his company.

"They wanted the table where the first date was of their spouse, a table where their high-school buddies would get together every year at, you know, the sentimental value, which often happens," Sherman said.

"And then we just kept trying to tell them, 'Look, it's like a truckload of equipment. Do you really want that in your backyard?'" Sherman added.

Sherman said that even among the equipment wholesalers and restaurant operators, he was surprised by how much interest there was. Bidding wars even broke out, with each location getting 12 to 25 unique bidders — much more than his company expected, Sherman said.

At the time the auctions closed, TAGeX's website showed that the entire contents of each location sold for $10,000 to $35,000. That included items as varied as upright refrigerators, microwaves, fish tanks, furniture, and, in some cases, decor.

Winners didn't get any perishable items such as food or leftover alcohol, or things such as salt and pepper shakers, which Red Lobster redistributed to its still-operating locations, Sherman said.

Sherman said tens of thousands of people visited the auction website before it closed on May 16. The winning bidders only had one day to haul out their spoils from the now dark locations.

"I knew that people really had a passion for Red Lobster; I didn't know it was this passionate," Sherman said. "The biscuits? I've never had them, but I got to go try some now. I was watching my weight, but I'm going to go try some."

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