Olive Garden at Biddeford Crossing served meals Friday night but didn’t reopen Saturday and won’t open again. A corporate spokesman said the popular restaurant is closed for good in the Biddeford location, but gave no reason for the closing. Hunter Robinson said 60 full- and part-time employees have been offered jobs in other Darden-owned restaurants in the area.

Olive Garden at Biddeford Crossing served meals Friday night but didn’t reopen Saturday and won’t open again. A corporate spokesman said the popular restaurant is closed for good in the Biddeford location, but gave no reason for the closing. Hunter Robinson said 60 full- and part-time employees have been offered jobs in other Darden-owned restaurants in the area.

BIDDEFORD — Customers didn’t know it – and apparently, employees didn’t either – but Friday was the last day for Olive Garden at Biddeford Crossing.

The last bowl of Zuppa Toscana, the last breadsticks and the last Tour of Italy entrees have been served at the popular dining establishment.

The chain restaurant, which is owned by Orlando-based Darden Restaurants Inc., called a team meeting of its 60 full- and part-time employees Saturday morning and offered them jobs in other Darden-owned restaurants, said corporate spokesman Hunter Robinson.

Soon thereafter, tractor-trailer trucks were in the parking lot, getting ready to haul the furniture and equipment away.

Robinson could offer no explanation for the closing, but said such decisions are always difficult.

The closing of the popular Olive Garden is the second shuttering of a chain restaurant in Biddeford within a month. Ruby Tuesday, which had been located on Boulder Way about a mile from Biddeford Crossing, closed abruptly on Aug. 16 as part of a chain-wide streamlining effort.

The Olive Garden closing Saturday took customers by surprise, including David and Carmelita Babb, who were planning to eat lunch at the restaurant. Heading from the parking lot to the walkway, they viewed a “permanent closure” sign with dismay.

“We’re so disappointed,” said Carmelita Babb.

So is Mayor Alan Casavant.

“While I understand that corporate logic dictates such moves, I would not have expected Olive Garden to be closed, especially so abruptly,” Casavant said in an email Sunday. “Many people in the city are flabbergasted, but unfortunately, such decisions are cold-heartedly made hundreds of miles from here.

“Fortunately, the restaurant scene in the area has been receiving accolades regionally and even nationally, so I am hoping that the displaced workers can find suitable employment in our other restaurants. City staff will be willing to assist in any way.”

When one worker in the parking lot was asked Saturday what was next for him, he said he hadn’t thought about it.

Robinson said employees were offered jobs at other restaurants. Darden also owns Longhorn Steakhouse, with restaurants in Biddeford Crossing and near the Maine Mall in South Portland, and there’s an Olive Garden there as well.

By mid-afternoon Saturday, about half of the employees had accepted positions with the company. Robinson said those who choose not to continue to work with the company will be offered a severance package.

The restaurant’s four managers will be transferred to other Darden locations, Robinson said.

While the Ruby Tuesday closing was part of a wider shuttering of the chain restaurants – 95 were scheduled to close across the country – that is not the case with Olive Garden, and the Biddeford restaurant was thought to be a busy location for the Italian-themed chain.

At the close of Wall Street Friday, Darden Restaurants Inc. stock was trading at $61.95, down .27 percent from the previous day’s trading.

According to a June 30 Wall Street Journal report, Darden reported a profit of $139.6 million, or $1.09 a share, during the fourth quarter, compared with $105.3 million, or 82 cents, a year earlier.

Analysts had forecast per-share earnings of $1.08. Sales rose 2.1 percent compared with 2015, the Wall Street Journal story reported.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]


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