Thomasville Times Enterprise

Local News

May 3, 2014


THOMASVILLE — Red Lobster/Olive Garden’s 17-month-old Thomasville stint ended Saturday.

The closing, which was announced to employees Saturday, is a result of Orlando, Fla.-based Darden Restaurants’ December 2013 decision to sell Red Lobster or spin it off as a publicly traded company, said Rich Jeffers, Darden Restaurants spokesman.

“There’s a lot of work that’s going into that,” Jeffers told the Times-Enterprise Saturday.

The Thomasville Red Lobster/Olive Garden, 254 Liberty St., is one of two Darden synergy restaurants that will close. The dual-restaurants arrangement cannot continue once Red Lobster is no longer part of Darden.

Synergy restaurants at Palm Coast, Fla., Wilkesboro, N.C., Brunswick and Waycross will be converted into Olive Gardens.

“In Thomasville, the company, unfortunately, does not think we can operate successfully there today,” Jeffers explained.

The other synergy restaurant that will close is in Beaufort, S.C.

About 100 employees worked at the Thomasville business. They will be offered jobs at other Darden restaurants, including Longhorn in Thomasville and Longhorns, Red Lobsters and Olive Gardens in Valdosta and Tallahassee, Fla.

Those who do not choose to go to local or area Darden restaurants will receive severance pay.

Jeffers said stand-alone Red Lobsters  — 705 in North America — will continue to operate as in the past, but under new ownership or as an all-new company.

Olive Garden will be retained by Darden. Only Olive Gardens in synergy restaurants are affected.

Jeffers said the decision to close the Thomasville restaurants did not come easily and after much careful consideration.

Darden might look at the Thomasville market again later, he said.

Jeffers does not know what will be done with the restaurant building, which fronts on U.S. 19 South.

The Thomasville Red Lobster/Olive Garden opened in December 2012.

Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1820.



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