Red Lobster in the Middle East?

With the consumer demand for casual-dining brands in the Middle East growing in the past decade, Darden Restaurants on Tuesday announced it will develop three of its brands, including its seafood hallmark, Red Lobster, in the region.

The Orlando, Fla.-based casual-dining giant entered into an agreement with Americana Group to develop a minimum of 60 Red Lobster, Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse restaurants in Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates over the next five years.

Based in Kuwait, Americana is the largest foodservice franchise operator in the Middle East, with more than 1,200 restaurants throughout the region, including KFC, Pizza Hut, TGI Friday’s, Hardee’s and Krispy Kreme.

“Today is an exciting milestone in Darden’s history. We’ve been exploring international expansion for some time now as part of our ongoing focus on additional growth opportunities. The Middle East is an attractive, growing market that has shown a strong affinity for American brands, especially American dining brands,” said Clarence Otis, Darden chairman and CEO.

Darden owns and operates 1,800 restaurants across North America and has more than USD 7 billion in annual sales.

“Darden remains committed to owning and operating its restaurants domestically,” added Otis. “However, we believe the best way for us to expand the reach of our portfolio internationally is by selecting the right partners, like Americana, with outstanding operations experience, local market knowledge and the commitment to delivering our brands experience with excellence.”

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