According to a news release yesterday, Darden Restaurants is making plans to close 56 of their Smokey Bones bbq concept restaurants citing performance as a deciding factor. Darden is seeking a buyer for the remaining 73 bbq restaurants.
I used to live a couple miles from one of the first Smokey Bones ever opened in Casselberry, FL. The restaurant seemed to be busy most of the time, but the article explained that frequency of returning visits is lower than in its other restaurant concepts.
It kind of makes sense to me. Compared to their other successful concepts including Olive Garden, Bahama Breeze, and Red Lobster, I understand that customers would be more likely to visit Olive Garden for lunch more than once per week and I guess I understand the Bahama Breeze popularity.
Although I'm a bbq nut, I have to admit that I don't eat bbq more than once per week. I'm probably not a "typical" Darden customer though. I make my own bbq and don't eat at Olive Garden or Red Lobster more than about once per year. Olive Garden is popular for lunch with my co-workers, but I don't personally know anyone that actually eats at Red Lobster regularly.
Could it also be that the profit margins for bbq are less than the profit margins for for seafood and pasta dishes?