Darden Closes China Coast Chain: The Orlando, Fla.-based restaurant company, which runs the Red Lobster and Olive Garden chains, said the 51-branch operation was expensive, unprofitable and unable to match the service and food of independent local competitors. China Coast’s $71 million in sales represented only 2% of Darden Restaurants Inc.'s $3.2 billion in total sales in fiscal 1995. Closing the 5-year-old China Coast chain will result in $25 million in savings by converting half of the properties into other Darden restaurants and selling the other half, the company said. Most of the 3,000 employees will be shifted to other restaurants. The closing will reduce first-quarter earnings by $45 million, or 28 cents a share, after taxes.
<i> Times Staff and Wire Reports</i>