NEW YORK (AP) — It's time for Olive Garden's parent company Darden Restaurants to consider looking for a new CEO, an activist investor said Wednesday.
Barington Capital Group said it sent a letter to the independent directors on Darden's board saying it was concerned by the company's "rapidly deteriorating financial performance" under chief executive Clarence Otis.
The letter said the firm has "long questioned why the board did not select a person with stronger operating experience in the industry to run Darden."
Darden said in a statement that its focus was on doing "what is in the best interest of all Darden shareholders and the board is confident in the actions the company is taking to deliver this responsibility."
The intensifying criticism comes as Darden Restaurants Inc., based in Orlando, Fla., fights to boost sales at its struggling Olive Garden and Red Lobster chains.
The chains have been losing customers since the downturn as people cut back on spending and reconsider whether the pasta or seafood meals are worth prices the restaurants charge. Another problem is the growing popularity of places like Chipotle, where people feel they can get quality food for less money.
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