- China Coast


In 1982, General Mills Restaurant Group Inc., a subsidiary of General Mills and owner of Red Lobster, launched Olive Garden, a chain of Italian food restaurants in their hometown of Orlando, and it was a huge success, with over 300 restaurants within a decade. With about 150 restaurants by 1990, General Mills decided to launch China Coast, which would be a sister chain to Olive Garden, except focused on Chinese cuisine, and expected to do just as well, and after a pilot location in Orlando did well, plans quickly developed for a nationwide expansion of the concept.

China Coast was relatively progressive for its time, in one 1993 newspaper classified, it reads "We support a culturally diverse workforce, and encourage women and minorities to apply."

However, problems soon came up. Unlike Olive Garden, which had practically no competition in the Italian food sector (especially in smaller towns without a heavy Italian presence), China Coast competed with locally-operated Chinese restaurants, and cooking with a wok was an art rather than flipping a hamburger. Restaurants were oversized for the Chinese food concept, and by 1994 General Mills put expansion to a halt. Shortly after General Mills spun off their restaurant group (with the newly-renamed Darden Restaurants Inc. being a separate company), Darden closed restaurants, and a result after August 21, 1995, 51 restaurants were closed for good, putting about 3,000 employees nationwide out of work.

Every location I've come across (except for the original) has the exact same décor, likely renovated out of the original turquoise "pagoda" style to come closer to the nautical décor of Red Lobster. Supposedly, many were also converted to Olive Garden or closed entirely but I have yet to come across them. List is arranged by state alphabetically, then city.

The restaurants were only in Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Texas and Arizona, with a few more states shortly afterward (including Oklahoma and Kentucky, see below). At the time of its closure, some restaurants were planned or under construction. Despite being small, this covers nearly a quarter of the restaurants. (If you know more, please contact me).

OrlandoFL7500 International DriveFirst location; now a restaurant called "Game Changers".
TampaFL4115 E. Busch Blvd.Never opened (see link above).
IndianpolisIN7303 US Hwy. 31Later Joe's Crab Shack (since closed).
St. MatthewsKY986 Breckenridge LaneMentioned in the surviving commercial on YouTube
DaytonOH7580 Poe AvenueOpened 1994, now Shen's Szechuan & Sushi
Oklahoma CityOK2701 West Memorial RoadOpened February 1994, only restaurant in state. Now Baker Street Pub & Grill, appears to have kept most of original exterior décor.
El PasoTX8401 Gateway Blvd. WestInside the Cielo Vista Mall (likely the mall's Red Lobster today).
HoustonTX302 FM 1960 WestNow Red Lobster.
HoustonTX2760 Highway 6Opened after 1993 unlike other two Houston stores.
HoustonTX13232 Northwest FreewayNow Red Lobster.
Texas CityTX10510 Emmett Lowry ExpresswayMay or may not ever opened as China Coast (may have opened instead as Red Lobster), but spent some time as China One Restaurant (2002) and reportedly even a martial arts studio before being Beyond Burger.
WacoTX5925 West Waco DriveOpened 1994 originally, Red Lobster in 1996.

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