Red Lobster Scales Back Growth Plans

Darden Restaurants will open fewer Red Lobster restaurants in 2010 than in 2009, the casual dining giant said at an annual meeting with analysts yesterday.

This year, Darden plans to open a total of 68 to 72 restaurants; the initial plan called for 75 to 80 units. In 2010, the number of new restaurants is expected to drop to between 53 and 65, figures Darden spokesman Rich Jeffers called "very preliminary," reports the Orlando Sentinel.

LongHorn Steakhouse and Red Lobster are expected to open fewer restaurants in 2010, while Olive Garden, Capital Grille and Bahama Breeze will open about the same number of units in 2010 as this year. Seasons 52 is projected to open two or three restaurants next year, compared to one this year.

Darden attributed its decision to curb restaurant growth to the poor economy.

"We've chosen to be somewhat more selective and focused on new restaurant opportunities with the strongest return on investment," said Darden COO and President Drew Madsen.

"As our competitors are retrenching and cutting unit expansion, we will continue to be very competitively focused on capturing the market share," added J.J. Buettgen, Darden's senior VP of business development. 


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