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Breadstick Abomination

Dumped by owners: Red Lobster and Olive Garden restaurants can't compete in a foodie world

Seafood platter at Red Lobster
Darden restaurant group plans to spin-off or sell its Red Lobster restaurants to focus on foodie-friendlier brands. Red Lobster/Facebook
Seasons 52 mini-desserts
Darden intends to shift its focus to newer, more upscale chains like Seasons 52. Seasons 52/Facebook
Olive Garden
Darden will stop launching new Olive Garden locations. Olive Garden/Facebook
News_Eddie V's, lounge
Darden restaurants like Eddie V's enjoyed a profitable year while mainstay brand Red Lobster floundered. Photo by Shannon O'Hara/Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau
Seafood platter at Red Lobster
Seasons 52 mini-desserts
Olive Garden
News_Eddie V's, lounge

Amid a shifting tide of casual dining trends, Darden restaurant group will throw Red Lobster overboard and greatly scale back its two other flagship brands. In a statement to shareholders, the company says it plans to spin off or sell the legendary seafood chain and its 705 locations across the United States and Canada.

Darden also will halt expansion of the Olive Garden and drastically limit the number of new LongHorn Steakhouse branches. Moving forward, the Florida-based company will concentrate on its more upscale "specialty restaurants" like Eddie V's, Yard House, Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52 and Capital Grille.

New specialty locations will be built across the nation in the coming year, albeit at a slower pace than previously announced. Darden's core brands have taken a hit during the recession as consumers lean toward less expensive fast-casual dining options like Panera Bread, Chipotle, Smashburger and Pei Wei.

Despite a continent-wide remodeling effort, poor Red Lobster saw customer traffic plummet nearly 8 percent in the last quarter compared to the same time last year. Olive Garden and LongHorn had modest sales gains, though primarily due to massive expansion efforts.

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