Olive Garden close to selecting Grand Forks locationOfficials with the Darden Restaurants chain are expected to choose between two potential sites for a future Olive Garden in south Grand Forks within the next two weeks.
After a long wait and a few delays along the way, an Olive Garden casual dining restaurant appears to finally be on its way to Grand Forks.
Officials from the Darden Restaurants Inc. chain, which includes the Olive Garden and Red Lobster brands, have been in touch with the city’s planning and zoning department within the past week.
Ryan Brooks, a senior planner with the city, said he expects Darden officials to choose a site for an Olive Garden restaurant in Grand Forks within the next two weeks.
Brooks declined to name the exact sites under consideration for the new Olive Garden, but said that Darden officials were considering two sites on Grand Forks’ south end near the existing Red Lobster located on 32nd Avenue South and South Columbia Road. Brooks said Darden prefers to locate its restaurants close to each other to help draw customers if one Darden restaurant is full or has long wait times.
Olive Garden spokesperson Heidi Schauer did not go into specifics about potential sites and said she did not know if Darden officials have selected a site for a future Grand Forks location.
“We are currently negotiating a contract for property in Grand Forks,” Schauer said. “But it’s too early to say whether or not we will be coming there or not.”
An employee at the Olive Garden restaurant in Fargo who answered the phone today confirmed that Olive Garden was planning to open a location in Grand Forks.
Olive Garden, which has locations in Fargo and Bismarck, has long been rumored to be interested in the Grand Forks market. Darden officials have expressed interest to city planning officials about opening a potential Grand Forks location several times throughout the past few years.
“We’re aware that they’re looking,” Brooks said. “They have been asking questions about locations, but we haven’t received an official application yet.” An application from Darden also likely would include site plans for the restaurant, Brooks said.
Orlando, Fla.-based Darden Restaurants is the world’s largest full-service restaurant company with more than 1,850 restaurants worldwide, including more than 730 Olive Garden locations.
“Some people from our region drive to Fargo to eat at Olive Garden. Now they won’t have to go that far,” said Hal Gershman, city council president and the owner of the Happy Harry’s Bottle Shops chain. “It will fill a need that has been in Grand Forks for a long time.”
Reach Schuster at (701) 780-1107 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.