Darden to open 10th Seasons 52

ORLANDO Fla. Darden Restaurants Inc. said last week it would open its 10th Seasons 52 restaurant in the King of Prussia Mall in King of Prussia, Pa., and focus the chain’s growth within premium real estate sites.

The opening is expected in the spring of 2010, and follows the announcement of another planned Seasons 52 restaurant, the chain’s ninth location, set to open in Tampa early next year. Darden opened the first Seasons 52 restaurant outside its home base of the Southeast with a March debut in Cherry Hill, N.J.

Afocus on securing premium real estate locations is the driver of the Seasons 52 growth plan, according to Stephen Judge, president of the Darden chain. Numerous restaurant chains, especially upscale casual-dining brands like Seasons 52, have said they are shopping aggressively for high-end real estate sites that attract higher-income consumers. In addition, real estate deals are plentiful in this market, especially for chains that have secured growth capital.

“King of Prussia Mall is one of the premier super-regional shopping complexes in the country,” Judge said in a statement. “Through the years it has kept itself fresh and exciting, with popular and upscale retailers that provide a lifestyle environment compatible with the Seasons 52 concept.”

Prior to the Seasons 52 opening in New Jersey, the chain had remained at seven locations for two years. During Darden’s fiscal 2009 fourth-quarter earnings conference call last month, company executives said the company would open as many as three Seasons 52 restaurants in the current fiscal 2010. The concept, which is an upscale casual-dining chain featuring seasonal foods, most with less than 450 calories, as well as a 100-bottle wine list, delivered strong unit volumes in the fourth quarter, the company said. Darden does not publicly release Seasons 52 results.

Darden also owns the Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse and The Capital Grille concepts. Its aggregate system totals about 1,773 restaurants.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected] [3].