News Release Details

Jim DeSimone Named Director Of Red Lobster Communications And Public Relations

March 27, 2000

ORLANDO, Fla., March 27 - Red Lobster restaurants announced today the appointment of a City of Orlando executive to direct the casual dining company's public and media relations.

Jim DeSimone, 41, currently directs the City's Office of Communications, which oversees Orlando's marketing and public relations efforts. He also serves as an advisor on Orlando Mayor Glenda Hood's staff. He will officially join Red Lobster April 4.

"Jim will be a tremendous asset and I am pleased to invite him to join our Red Lobster team," said Red Lobster President and Darden Board Member Dick Rivera. "I have admired his work at the City of Orlando and know that he will bring creative ideas to our public relations efforts."

DeSimone joins Red Lobster as industry experts are predicting sales in the casual dining segment to grow strongly in the next decade, spurred by Baby Boomers in their peak earning years and the continued increase in two-income families looking for convenient high-quality dining alternatives.

In its most recent quarter ending February 27, Red Lobster recorded strong sales growth, reporting a 5.0% increase in same-restaurant sales. This outstanding performance represented the ninth consecutive quarter of same- restaurant sales increases, and contributed to a double-digit increase in operating profit for Red Lobster.

"We wish Jim every success at Red Lobster," said Mayor Hood. "He has been a trusted senior advisor and a great friend to our City."

Before joining the City of Orlando, DeSimone managed corporate communications for Sentinel Communications Co., a subsidiary of Tribune Co. of Chicago. Sentinel Communications publishes The Orlando Sentinel newspaper, community-publishing Internet sites, Digital City Orlando and Orlando Sentinel Online, and operates Orlando's 24-hour cable news station, Central Florida News 13.

DeSimone served as a reporter in the Sentinel newsroom in the early 1990s where he covered the legal system and business issues, including the restaurant industry. He was a practicing lawyer in metropolitan Washington D.C. before entering the communications industry in 1992.

Red Lobster is the world's largest casual dining restaurant operation with 651 seafood restaurants in the United States and Canada and over 60,000 employees. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Darden Restaurants Inc. (NYSE: DRI) of Orlando, which also operates industry leaders: Olive Garden, Bahama Breeze and Smokey Bones BBQ & Sports Bar restaurants.