Red Lobster is a casual dining restaurant chain founded in 1968 by Bill Darden and Charley Woodsby. Originally billed as a “Harbor for Seafood Lovers”, the first restaurant in Lakeland, Florida was followed by several others throughout the southeast. In 1970, the food giant General Mills acquired the then five-unit Red Lobster which allowed the chain to expand rapidly through the 1980’s. General Mills retained the founders and their company, the Darden Group, to run Red Lobster as well as expand the companies’ restaurant offerings. In 1995 General Mills spun off Darden as a public company to get out of the restaurant business and focus on consumer food products. Red Lobster’s growth continued and now has over 700 stores worldwide including locations in 44 states and the District of Columbia.
In what some Wall Street analysts considered a controversial move, Darden decided to sell the Red Lobster brand in 2014 to the private equity firm Golden Gate Capital for $2.1 billion. Though the brand had been struggling with declining revenues since 2010 Red Lobster still commanded a powerful brand name and market reach and was considered a steal for its new owner. Golden Gate Capital’s purchase has, however,