NEW YORK — Darden is setting Red Lobster adrift, but betting that it can still turn around Olive Garden’s fortunes.

The company, which is based in Orlando, Florida, said Friday that it will sell its seafood chain and the accompanying real estate to investment firm Golden Gate Capital in a $2.1 billion cash deal. The announcement came despite objections from some shareholders to the plan to separate Red Lobster, which was announced late last year.

Both Olive Garden and Red Lobster have been losing customers in recent years, even as they changed their menus and marketing campaigns to win back business. Part of the problem is the growing popularity of places like Chipotle and Panera, where customers feel they can get the same quality of food without paying as much or waiting for table service.

But Darden CEO Clarence Otis has drawn a distinction between Red Lobster and Olive Garden.

Otis says Red Lobster in particular is increasingly unable to attract the higher-income customers Darden caters to with its more successful chains, which include Longhorn Steakhouse, The Capital Grille and Seasons 52.

Red Lobster, which opened in 1968, helped popularize seafood among Americans and today has about 700 locations in the United States and Canada. There are none in Maine.

The company recently tried to attract a wider array of customers by adding more non-seafood dishes to Red Lobster’s menu.

Darden sees more potential in fixing Olive Garden, which has about 830 locations, including three in Maine, according to the company website. The company recently reworked the logo for the Italian food chain and has been adding lighter menu items, as well as smaller dishes that it says reflect eating trends.