Darden closes 56 restaurants

Its say 73 other Smokey Bones Barbeque locations are being sold.

Published May 6, 2007

ORLANDO - Darden Restaurants Inc., operator of Red Lobster and Olive Garden and other restaurants, said Saturday that it is closing 56 of its Smokey Bones Barbeque & Grill locations and will offer the remaining 73 for sale.

Darden thinks that its profitability will improve with the closings and that the move will better position it for growth, Darden spokesman Joe Chabus said.

Smokey Bones restaurants are being closed in 22 states, primarily across the Southwest and north-central United States. Seven locations in Indiana are being closed, the most in a single state.

Three locations in Florida, where Darden has its headquarters, will also close. The restaurants all closed after serving dinner on Friday, Chabus said.

The approximately 4, 000 employees who work at closed Smokey Bones restaurants will be given opportunities to transfer to other Darden locations, the company said in a statement. The remaining, open locations are largely in the eastern half of the country.

"This action in no way reflects adversely on the hard work of people associated with Smokey Bones and we will take care of every employee affected by this action, " Darden chairman and chief executive officer Clarence Otis said in the statement. "The remaining Smokey Bones restaurants are a viable business but one that is not consistent with Darden's vision for a national restaurant concept."

Darden operates about 1, 400 Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Bahama Breeze, Smokey Bones and Seasons 52 restaurants across the United States.