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Darden Restaurants to Open up to 50 New Locations

Customers craving breadsticks are about to feel very satisfied. Darden Restaurants plans 45 to 50 new restaurant locations across its eight branded restaurants including Olive Garden, marking a major expansion.

The news, announced Thursday, came as Darden reported strong fourth-quarter earnings, one in a series of favorable earnings reports. Profits hit $174.5 million in the quarter ending May 27, compared with $123.8 million in the same period last year while sales rose 10.3% to $2.13 billion.

Shares in Darden rose 15% on Thursday to $107.06, their highest point since March 2009.

In a statement, Darden CEO Gene Lee said the company’s corporate strategy and commitment to customer loyalty remains unchanged.

Darden did not say where its the new restaurants would be located. Olive Garden, alone, already has nearly 850 locations across North America.

Most of the company’s restaurants are performing well. Seven of Darden’s eight restaurants, including LongHorn Steakhouse and Eddie V’s, saw same-store sales spike this past quarter.

Olive Garden’s growth in particular has been the result of a number of strategic changes and new offerings. Earlier this year, it introduced its own exclusive wine and surprisingly delicious Italian nachos.

Darden says expects same-store sales at all its branded restaurants to grow by up to 2% in 2019.

Correction: The original version of this article inaccurately described Darden’s restaurant expansion plans. The company said it would add up to 50 restaurants for all its brands, not just Olive Garden.