Darden Enters Agreement for Growth in Middle East

Darden Restaurants, Inc. (NYSE: DRI) today announced it has entered into a formal area development agreement with Americana Group to develop and operate Darden’s Red Lobster, Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse brands in the Middle East. The agreement calls for Americana to initially develop a minimum of 60 restaurants in Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates over the next five years.

“Today is an exciting milestone in Darden’s history,” said Clarence Otis, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Darden. “We’ve been exploring international expansion for some time now as part of our ongoing focus on additional growth opportunities. The Middle East is an attractive, growing market that has shown a strong affinity for American brands, especially American dining brands.

“Darden remains committed to owning and operating its restaurants domestically.  However we believe the best way for us to expand the reach of our portfolio internationally is by selecting the right partners, like Americana, with outstanding operations experience, local market knowledge, and the commitment to delivering our brands’ experience with excellence.”  

Americana is the largest food service franchise operator in the Middle East with more than 1,200 restaurants throughout the region. The company has a long and successful history of franchising familiar U.S.-based brands including KFC, Pizza Hut, Hardee’s, Krispy Kreme and TGI Friday’s.

“We are delighted to welcome Red Lobster, Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse to our family,” said Americana Chairman and Managing Director, Marzouk Al Kharafi.  ”Consumer demand for casual dining brands in the Middle East market has grown over the past decade, and we expect that growth to continue in the future. The addition of these three highly regarded brands to our portfolio enables Americana to build on its long legacy as the leading restaurant operator in the region.”