NEW YORK — Darden Restaurants says it will slow down the pace of new restaurant openings for its flagship Olive Garden chain, as the company works to revitalize the brand and catch up to changing dining habits.
Darden will open about 15 restaurants annually for the next couple of years, down from the 36 per year that it had been opening. To attract more customers, it also will temper price hikes at its three biggest chains, the others being Red Lobster and LongHorn Steakhouse.
Casual dining restaurants have struggled as people pull back on spending and flock to chains such as Chipotle that aren’t as expensive.
“The price premium attached to casual dining is getting tougher to justify,” Drew Madsen, Darden’s chief operating officer and president, said at the company’s investors day.