Seasons 52 vet to develop casual-dining ‘districts’

ORLANDO Fla. An operations specialist from Darden Restaurants’ Seasons 52 and Bahama Breeze chains has teamed up with a local developer to open “nighttime entertainment districts” studded with high-end casual restaurants.

Doug Doran left Darden last month after 11 years to become a principal and president of the venture, which is called Group Four Restaurants. His appointment and Group Four’s plans were announced Thursday morning.

The company said it planned to develop a 300,000-square-foot lifestyle center in MetroWest area of Orlando, with similar facilities to follow in Windermere, Lake Nona and Maitland, all of which are in central Florida. The announcement indicated that the first complex, part of MetroWest’s Veranda Park center, will sport five restaurants, a “sophisticated adult nightclub” and a movie theater with drink service. Two of the restaurants will open by the third quarter of 2008, Doran said.

Doran said he would oversee the design, development, construction and operation of the restaurants.

The concepts developed by Doran and his team may be replicated in other locations, he said. He did not rule out the possibility of leasing space to other restaurateurs.

Doran said MetroWest would be a testing ground for the entertainment districts that he and Azzouz intend to develop in other parts of the country. Azzouz, a longtime Orlando-based developer, is the primary investor in the projects, he said.

Doran had been with Darden, the parent of Red Lobster and Olive Garden, since 1996. During his tenure he helped to launch two of the company’s youngest concepts, Bahama Breeze and Seasons 52. Earlier, he worked for several restaurants on the West Coast.

Blaine Sweatt, the recently retired president of Darden’s New Business Division and now a principal of Ivanhoe Design in Orlando, said, “Doug’s tenure at Darden along with his work at the California restaurants catering to slightly more affluent diners will lend itself to success in this type of venture.”