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DARDEN RESTAURANTS OPENS RED LOBSTER, SMOKEY BONES, & OLIVE GARDEN IN SOUTHAVEN
Restaurants Bring $10 Million Investment, 400 Jobs to Southaven

SOUTHAVEN (November 4, 2005) — Live Maine lobster?  Hand-Pulled Pork? Stuffed Chicken Marsala? Whether you’re in the mood for seafood, barbeque or Italian, three new restaurants at Southaven Towne Center illustrate the community’s growing economic clout. 

Darden Restaurants, Inc., the world’s largest casual dining company, will open its Red Lobster, Smokey Bones Barbeque & Grill and Olive Garden restaurants in Southaven this month.
 
These restaurants will bring more than just great food – they also represent $10 million in development and 400 new jobs. According to the National Restaurant Association’s 2005 Industry Forecast, restaurant sales in Mississippi are expected to grow 4.9 percent this year.

Red Lobster opens on Monday, November 14 and will unveil its first location in Southaven.  The new restaurant, the third in the Memphis area, will feature a dynamic menu that includes a variety of fresh fish entrées, live Maine lobsters, the company’s healthy LightHouse Selections and its award-winning kid’s menu as well as an assortment of traditional Red Lobster favorites.

The 229-seat and 7,222 square foot restaurant is located at 6535 Airways Boulevard. Employing 161 crewmembers, the new Southaven Red Lobster will begin serving lunch from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. and dinner all day long.  The new restaurant will celebrate its grand opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony on November 14 at 10 a.m.in front of the restaurant. 

“We’re proud to be a new neighbor in the Southaven area,” said Dave Bullock, a 10-year Red Lobster veteran and the general manager for the new Southaven restaurant.  “Our enthusiastic crew looks forward to serving guests the freshest seafood in a comfortable, relaxing atmosphere.”

Smokey Bones Barbeque & Grill opens its first Mississippi restaurant on Tuesday, November 15. The 6,300 square-foot restaurant seats 179 guests and resembles a rustic mountain lodge with its strapping logs, stone fireplace and stacked stone. It will employ 120 people.

 “We’re excited to open Mississippi’s first Smokey Bones here in Southaven,” said Smokey Bones Director of Operations Jeff Payne, who also lives in Southaven and oversees the region’s three Smokey Bones restaurants. “We’ve got a great team here that’s ready to provide our guests with great dining experiences.” 

Smokey Bones serves Baby Back and St. Louis-style ribs, pulled pork, brisket, steaks, grilled chicken and fish, salads, Buffalo burgers and Angus burgers. Smokey Bones’ award-winning barbeque rubs and sauces were developed on the barbeque competition circuit. The Smokey Bones barbeque team has won trophies in the past four Memphis in May festivals.
    
Smokey Bones also offers guests great television viewing. The restaurant shows nearly all professional and college sports and other televised entertainment on 42-inch plasma screens throughout the building. Individual tabletop sound controls enable guests to choose between watching and listening to a variety of television channels or muting the sound altogether.

The restaurant will open at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, November 15, for dinner only. Beginning Thursday, November 17, the restaurant will serve lunch and the operating hours will be 11 a.m. -10 p.m. Sunday –Thursday, and 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The new restaurant will celebrate its grand opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony on November 15 at 3:45 p.m.in front of the restaurant. 

Olive Garden will welcome guests to its newest restaurant opening in Southaven at 6615 Airways Blvd. on Monday, November 21 at 4 p.m.  The beautiful, new restaurant, built in the company’s Tuscan-farmhouse design, is the first to open in De Soto County and the third to open in the state.  Approximately 150 jobs will be created with the opening of the 233-seat, 7,685-square-foot restaurant.

“We are extremely excited to share the breathtaking setting of our new Tuscan Farmhouse-design Olive Garden with the Southaven community,” said Brad Sevin, general manager.  “It was designed after our Culinary Institute and Riserva di Fizzano restaurant in Tuscany, Italy, which is rustic, charming, warm and beautiful – the perfect atmosphere to enjoy a genuine Italian dining experience.”

Olive Garden’s Culinary Institute and restaurant in Italy also serve to inspire many fresh and flavorful dishes on Olive Garden’s menu such as Pork Filettino, Mixed Grill and Three Meat Ravioli.  With their meal, guests can choose from among 38 wines on Olive Garden’s award-winning list, 33 of which are available by the glass.

Beginning Monday, November 21 – November 27, the restaurant will serve dinner Sunday through Thursday from 4 to 10 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday until 11 p.m.  Olive Garden will open for lunch beginning Monday, November 28 and open at 11 a.m. every day.

Darden (NYSE: DRI), based in Orlando, Fla., owns and operates nearly 1,400 Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Smokey Bones, Bahama Breeze and Seasons 52 restaurants.  The company records sales of $5.3 billion annually and employs 150,000 people who serve 300 million meals each year.

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