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Darden is ambience Red Lobster afloat but action it can still about-face about Olive Garden’s fortunes.
The company, based in Orlando, Florida, said Friday that it would advertise its seafood alternation and the accompanying absolute acreage to advance abutting Golden Gate Capital in a $2.1 billion banknote deal. The advertisement came admitting objections from some shareholders to the plan to abstracted Red Lobster, which was appear backward aftermost year.
Olive Garden and Red Lobster accept been accident barter in contempo years, alike as they afflicted their airheaded and business campaigns to win aback business. Part of the botheration is the growing acceptance of places like Chipotle and Panera, area barter feel they can get the aforementioned affection of aliment after advantageous as abundant or cat-and-mouse for table service.
But Darden CEO Clarence Otis has fatigued a acumen amid Red Lobster and Olive Garden.
Otis said Red Lobster in accurate is added clumsy to allure the higher-income barter Darden caters to with its added acknowledged chains, which accommodate Longhorn Steakhouse, The Capital Grille and Seasons 52.
Red Lobster, which opened in 1968, helped popularize seafood amid Americans and today has about 700 locations in the U.S. and Canada. The aboriginal restaurant in Lakeland, Florida, boasted a card including bisected a dozen oysters for 65 cents and platters with frog legs and calm puppies for $2.50.
As it suffered sales declines added recently, admiral abhorrent a arrangement of factors, including a abnegation amid barter to absorb amount increases. In 2012, for instance, admiral cited a $1 amount backpack for its Festival of Shrimp appropriate in answer a annual abatement in sales.
More recently, the aggregation approved to allure a added arrangement of barter by abacus added non-seafood dishes to Red Lobster’s menu. The efforts didn’t booty hold.
Darden sees added abeyant in acclimation Olive Garden, which has about 830 locations. The aggregation afresh reworked the logo for the Italian alternation and has been abacus lighter card items and abate dishes like brittle risotto bites that it says reflect bistro trends.
Still, affordability is an advancing affair beyond the industry, and Darden has been apathetic to abode it. At the acme of the downturn, for instance, Applebee’s alien a 2-for-$20 accord that accepted so accepted it concluded up acceptable a card fixture.
Activist broker Barington Capital had challenged Darden’s affairs to advertise Red Lobster, adage the aggregation should abstracted Olive Garden and Red Lobster as a brace from its added chains, which additionally accommodate Bahama Breeze, Eddie V’s and Yard House.
Barington said in a account that Darden’s accommodation was “unconscionable” accustomed the apropos bidding by shareholders. Earlier this week, Starboard Value additionally accursed Darden for dabbling a appropriate affair of shareholders on the plans.
Darden acclaimed that its accord is not accountable to actor approval.
After the transaction costs, Darden said it expects gain of $1.6 billion, of which $1 billion will be acclimated to retire debt. The aggregation said it expects the accord to abutting in its budgetary aboriginal division of 2015, which is this summer.
Golden Gate Capital fabricated a abstracted $1.5 billion accord to advertise Red Lobster’s absolute acreage to American Realty Capital Properties, again charter it back. Its added investments accommodate California Pizza Kitchen, Payless ShoeSource and Eddie Bauer.
Shares of Darden Restaurants Inc. were bottomward 4 percent at $48.49.
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