The company that owns Olive Garden just placed a $780 million bet on a tiny restaurant chain

Chain restaurant behemoth Darden Restaurants just snapped up a new eatery for $US780 million: Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen.

Darden owns a handful of restaurant companies including Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Yard House, and The Capital Grill.

Cheddar’s is a smaller chain with just 165 locations — about one sixth the size of Olive Garden — in 28 states including Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina. 

It’s best known for its house-smoked baby-back ribs, chicken fingers, and Monte Cristo sandwich.

The Monte Cristo features smoked ham and turkey, two cheeses, and raspberry preserves in bread that’s battered and fried and dusted with powdered sugar. 

“Did a couple of lunches here over the past couple of months, and still haven’t ventured past the Monte Cristo and mac and cheese,” one customer wrote in a review of Cheddar’s on Yelp. “I could eat those things daily, and die happy at 40.”

The menu also features dishes like loaded potato skins, nachos, fried cheese bites, chicken fried steak, grilled catfish, and beer-battered fried shrimp.

In reviews, customers say the portions are hefty, the prices are reasonable, and the service is reliable.

Cheddar’s was previously owned by private equity firms L Catterton and Oak Investment partners.

It will likely expand under Darden’s ownership.

In a release announcing the purchase, Darden highlighted Cheddar’s “significant growth opportunities in new and existing markets.”

It said Cheddar’s average sales per restaurant is about $US4.4 million — which is close to Olive Garden’s $US4.5 million in annual per-restaurant sales last year.


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