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Unemployment Makes IHOP-to-Red Lobster Target Higher Incomes

Red Lobster is trying to create the ambiance of a small, seaside town in Maine as it rolls out a three-year remodeling plan for its 700 U.S. and Canadian restaurants.

The seafood chain is the latest eatery to spruce up its menu, décor and architecture to lure consumers who can afford to eat out more frequently. With economists trimming growth forecasts and unemployment at 9.1 percent, restaurants are becoming increasingly dependent on households earning more than $70,000 to keep sales growing, according to Malcolm Knapp, a New York-based consultant who has monitored the industry since 1970.