The arrival of Red Lobster, Olive Garden and more Longhorn Steakhouse eateries to Puerto Rican shores will represent the creation of some 2,000 new jobs and investments of about $36 million by 2017.
On Tuesday, Orlando-based Darden Restaurants Inc. confirmed that it had amended its “Area Development Agreement” with ROI whereby in addition to developing a previously announced eight Olive Garden restaurants and adding three more Longhorn Steakhouse establishments, the local company would also add three Red Lobster fresh fish and seafood eateries to the mix.
All tolled, the 14 new establishments will entail an investment of about $36 million, this media outlet learned. Each restaurant carries an individual investment of between $2 million and $2.5 million, and will generate 150 direct jobs. The number of indirect jobs to be created during the construction process was not tallied as of Tuesday.
Furthermore, because the ink had just dried on the amended agreement, ROI officials could not say where the first Red Lobster restaurant will be located and when construction will begin.
“ROI is a tremendous partner, and we are thrilled they will now bring Darden’s three largest brands to Puerto Rico,” said Kim Lopdrup, senior vice president of Business Development for Darden, which has been in partnership with ROI for the better part of the last five years.
ROI already operates five LongHorn units in Puerto Rico as part of an agreement that was executed prior to Darden’s 2007 acquisition of RARE Hospitality, Inc.
“We feel very proud of including Red Lobster, Olive Garden and LongHorn in our restaurant portfolio,” said Jorge Colón-Gerena, chairman of ROI. “Each one of these restaurants represents the best of its segment and they comply with the criteria of the brands we represent – quality, service, innovation, great flavor, an exciting menu and the family casual dining experience. We look forward to being part of the development and growth of these brands in Puerto Rico during the next few years.”
Furthermore, Colón-Gerena said the new jobs to be generated — which the government included in its target of creating 50,000 jobs in 18 months — will include management level workforce, for which ROI will “begin interviewing soon.”
Forever 21 to open in Plaza del Caribe
In related retail news, on Tuesday, the owners of the Plaza del Caribe mall in Ponce announced the summer arrival of clothing retailer Forever 21 to the southern Puerto Rico shopping center.
The store will occupy 21,000 square-feet of retail space, for which construction will begin in coming days. Forever 21 is part of the lineup of new tenants that will begin doing business at Plaza del Caribe as part of its previously announced upgrades.
“Forever 21 expands the options of clothing stores and fashion accessories that the mall offers, attracting customers looking for the latest in fashion, at an attractive price and with new merchandise every day,” said Rafael Ruiz-Comas, director of corporate leasing for Empresas Fonalledas, which owns the shopping center. “We estimate that the operation of this store will create more than 100 new jobs to continue stimulating Ponce and the entire southern region’s economy.”