Darden Restaurants Inc. will expand its Red Lobster brand into Puerto Rico by 2017, the company said Tuesday, marking the brand's first move into the region.
The plans to expand Red Lobster are part of an amendment to Darden’s area development agreement with Restaurant Operators Inc., or ROI. The agreement gives ROI exclusive rights to develop Darden’s three largest brands — Olive Garden, Red Lobster and LongHorn Steakhouse — in Puerto Rico.
Per the amended agreement, ROI will develop at least three Red Lobster locations, eight Olive Garden restaurants and three LongHorn Steakhouse units in Puerto Rico by 2017.
The initial agreement between ROI and Darden was formed in April, when Darden said ROI would develop Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse restaurants in Puerto Rico. ROI had previously worked with former LorgHorn Steakhouse parent Rare Hospitality International Inc. before Darden acquired the company for $1.4 billion in 2007. As such, before the exclusive agreement formed, ROI already operated five LongHorn Steakhouses in the commonwealth. ROI will open its first Olive Garden there this year.
“We don’t have operational capacity there and they have history and expertise in that market,” said Rich Jeffers, Darden spokesman, commenting on why Darden chose to work with ROI to expand in Puerto Rico.
As of Tuesday, it was unclear when the first Red Lobster location would open in Puerto Rico, Jeffers said.
"We are proud to include the Red Lobster, Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse brands in our portfolio of restaurants," said ROI chief executive Jorge Colon-Gerena. "We look forward to growing these brands in the years to come."
Orlando, Fla.-based Darden — which also encompasses the Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52, The Capital Grille, Eddie V’s and Yard House brands — has more than 2,000 restaurants systemwide.