Darden, parent company of ubiquitous chain restaurants such as Olive Garden, Red Lobster, and LongHorn Steakhouse, likes to cluster its restaurants near each other. So it makes sense that in smaller markets, they would pair a Red Lobster and an Olive Garden in one building, with a shared kitchen, bar, waiting area, and rest rooms. This seemed like totally amazing news until we learned that customers will not be able to order off both menus. Then what’s the point?
The point, as it turns out, is to expand both brands into smaller markets that are too small to support a normal-sized Lobster Garden and/or Red Olive. Unlike the KFC/A&W or Taco Bell/Long John Silver’s establishments you may be familiar with, the shared facilities branch off into separate dining rooms that are just smaller versions of the brand’s typical restaurant.
One Olive Lobster/Red Garden opened in Florida in March 2011, and the newest one opened in Brunswick, Georgia last month.
It’s a bold idea. Bold ideas aren’t necessarily good ones, though. As one investment analyst told Bloomberg BusinessWeek, “You have to ask: ‘Why has nobody else done it?’ Sometimes it’s because it’s not a great idea.”
Come on, Darden. This is America. People would pay good money to chase a basket of cheese biscuits and a fried shrimp appetizer with a few thousand calories’ worth of never-ending alfredo bowl and a slice of black tie mousse cake. Maybe you could serve milkshakes, too. And side lobsters.