Following other international expansion efforts earlier this year, including developing 57 new Red Lobster, Olive Garden, and Longhorn Steakhouse restaurants in Central and South America, Darden (NYSE:DRI) announced today it has signed an agreement with Asian restaurant operator Secret Recipe to develop 13 restaurants in Malaysia. The deal marks Darden's first foray into Asia, according to its statement.

The agreement with Secret Recipe, which owns 300 cafes across the Pan Pacific region, entails developing Darden's Olive Garden, Red Lobster, and Longhorn Steakhouse brands. The deal includes an option to develop other locations and brands, according to Darden's statement.

Darden Senior Vice President of Business Development Kim Lopdrup in a statement called Malaysia a "vibrant, growing country."

Darden franchises 44 restaurants (mostly Red Lobsters) to local operators in seven countries outside the U.S, according to the company, and has eight restaurant brands in total. In addition to Red Lobster, Olive Garden, and Longhorn Steakhouse, Darden's family of restaurants also includes Bahama Breeze, Yard House, Eddie V's, The Capital Grille, and Seasons 52.

The company has been struggling to attract customers in the U.S., with people increasingly heading to chains such as Chipotle, where they feel they can get sit-down restaurant-quality food without paying as much. In its latest quarter, Darden's profit fell by 37%.

-- Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.


Fool contributor Tim Brugger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Chipotle Mexican Grill. The Motley Fool owns shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill and Darden Restaurants. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.