Red Lobster Says It's Not Closing Its 705 Restaurants

PHOTO: A Red Lobster restaurant sign sits in Cincinnati, Ohio, June 23, 2009.

The Red Lobster restaurant chain today brushed aside reports that it will be closing its doors.

Rich Jeffers, a spokesman for Darden Restaurants Inc., which owns the chain, said the rumor may have started after the website LA Weekly published a story earlier this week that the company faced an "uncertain future." A torrent of tweets and other online media followed with reports that the chain was closing.

"We are not closing any restaurants," Jeffers told ABCNews.com on Friday.

The confusion may also be linked to Darden's announcement last week that it plans to sell or spin off the Red Lobster chain into a separate company.

There are 705 Red Lobster restaurants in the U.S. and Canada, Jeffers said.

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Shares of Darden, based in Orlando, closed up 0.02 percent on Friday to $54.33.

Darden calls itself the "world's largest full-service restaurant company," with a portfolio that includes Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, The Capital Grille and other restaurants.

Darden owns and operates more than 2,100 restaurants that generate over $8.5 billion in annual sales, according to its website. But same-store sales fell 4.5 percent at Red Lobster in the company's latest quarter as it has had trouble going up against more-casual chains including Panera and Chipotle.

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