Red Lobster to be sold for $2.1B

Customers enter a Red Lobster restaurant in Hialeah, Fla.
Customers enter a Red Lobster restaurant in Hialeah, Fla. Alan Diaz/AP file photo

New York (AP - Darden Restaurants says it will sell its Red Lobster chain to investment firm Golden Gate Capital in a $2.1 billion cash deal.

The company, which also owns Olive Garden, had announced late last year that it planned to either spin off or sell Red Lobster to improve its financial performance.

Both Olive Garden and Red Lobster have been losing customers in recent years, even as the company changed the menus and marketing campaigns to win back business. Part of the problem is the growing popularity of chains like Chipotle and Panera, where customers feel they can get the same quality of food without having to pay as much or wait for table service.

Red Lobster, which opened in 1968, helped popularize seafood among Americans and today has about 700 locations in the U.S. and Canada.

As the chain suffered sales declines more recently, Darden executives blamed a variety of factors, including a refusal among customers to swallow price hikes.

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