The company that owns Olive Garden just placed a $780 million bet on a tiny restaurant chain

Chain restaurant behemoth Darden Restaurants just snapped up a new eatery for $780 million: Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen.

Darden owns a handful of restaurant companies including Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Yard House, and The Capital Grill.

Cheddar's is a smaller chain with just 165 locations — about one sixth the size of Olive Garden — in 28 states including Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina.

It's best known for its house-smoked baby-back ribs, chicken fingers, and Monte Cristo sandwich.

The Monte Cristo features smoked ham and turkey, two cheeses, and raspberry preserves in bread that's battered and fried and dusted with powdered sugar.

"Did a couple of lunches here over the past couple of months, and still haven't ventured past the Monte Cristo and mac and cheese," one customer wrote in a review of Cheddar's on Yelp. "I could eat those things daily, and die happy at 40."

Question: Should you have chicken or ribs for dinner? Answer: You should have chicken AND ribs for dinner.

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The menu also features dishes like loaded potato skins, nachos, fried cheese bites, chicken fried steak, grilled catfish, and beer-battered fried shrimp.

In reviews, customers say the portions are hefty, the prices are reasonable, and the service is reliable.

Experience Cajun flavor sandwiched between two slices of bread with our new Blackened Redfish Sandwich.

A post shared by Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen (@cheddarskitchen) on

Cheddar's was previously owned by private equity firms L Catterton and Oak Investment partners.

It will likely expand under Darden's ownership.

In a release announcing the purchase, Darden highlighted Cheddar's "significant growth opportunities in new and existing markets."

It said Cheddar's average sales per restaurant is about $4.4 million — which is close to Olive Garden's $4.5 million in annual per-restaurant sales last year.

Welcome to #maryland #friedshrimp #chickentenders

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RELATED: 21 restaurants offering free food

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21 restaurants offering free food
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21 restaurants offering free food

Arby’s 

Sign up for the email list at Arby’s, and you’ll get a free Roast Beef Classic with the purchase of a beverage.

Photo credit: Getty

Bakers Square

Register for the email list at Bakers Square, and you’ll get a free entree with the purchase of a second entree and two drinks.

Photo credit: Facebook 

Buca di Beppo

Sign up for the Buca di Beppo e-club, and you’ll get free pasta, plus a $20 gift on your birthday.

Photo credit: Facebook.com 

Checkers

Become a member of the Flavorhood at Checkers, and you’ll land a coupon for a free order of large french fries with any purchase.

Photo credit: Facebook.com 

Dairy Queen 

Brave the elements and join the Blizzard Fan Club at Dairy Queen, and you’ll receive a coupon for a buy one, get one Blizzard treat free. 

Photo credit: Getty

Del Taco

Sign up for the Raving Fan EClub at Del Taco, and you’ll enjoy two free grilled chicken tacos, plus a complimentary premium shake on your birthday. 

Photo credit: Getty

Houlihan’s

Give Houlihan’s your email address, and you’ll score $10 off, plus a free entree on your birthday.

Photo credit: Facebook.com 

IHOP 

Enlist in the Pancake Revolution at IHOP, and you’ll secure a free full stack of Rooty Tooty Fresh ‘N Fruity Pancakes, plus a gratis meal on your birthday. 

Photo credit: Getty

Joe’s Crab Shack 

Surf over to sign up for the Joe’s Catch E-Club at Joe’s Crab Shack, and you’ll get a free appetizer. 

Photo credit: Getty

LongHorn Steakhouse 

Saddle up for the Steakholders Club at LongHorn Steakhouse, and you’ll get a free appetizer with the purchase of an entree. 

Photo credit: Getty

Olive Garden 

Join the Olive Garden E-Club, and enjoy a complimentary appetizer or dessert when you order two adult entrees.

Photo credit: Getty

Maggiano’s Little Italy

Sign up for the e-club at Maggiano’s Little Italy, and you’ll receive $10 off your next visit.

Photo credit: Facebook.com 

Pizza Hut
 
Say “I do” to the Hut Lovers at Pizza Hut, and you’ll get free cheese sticks with a future online order. 

Photo credit: Getty

Red Lobster

Join the crew of the Fresh Catch Club at Red Lobster, and choose a free appetizer or dessert when you order two adult entrees. You’ll also get a surprise birthday offer. 

Photo credit: Getty

Rubio’s

Catch the wave with Rubio’s Beach Club, and you’ll savor the flavor of a free taco.

Photo credit: Facebook.com 

Ruby Tuesday

Sign up for So Connected at Ruby Tuesday, and you will receive a free appetizer when you join, plus a free burger or Garden Bar entree on your birthday. 

Photo credit: Getty

Sizzler

Join Sizzler’s Real Deal Eclub, and you’ll get a free entree.

Photo credit: Facebook.com 

Subway

Sign up at Subway and agree to receive weekly text offers, and you will get a free 6-inch sandwich with the purchase of a 30-ounce drink. 

Photo credit: Getty

Texas Roadhouse

Join the Texas Roadhouse email list, and you’ll enjoy a free appetizer.

Photo credit: Facebook.com 

TGI Fridays

Join Fridays Rewards, and you’ll get “free food like chips and salsa with every Fridays visit,” according to the chain’s website. 

Photo credit: Getty

Village Inn

Join the Village Inn e-club, and you’ll enjoy a slice of pie on the house with an adult entree purchase.

Photo credit: Facebook.com 

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