Our History
Bill Darden opens The Green Frog in 1938
year 1938

Bill Darden was just 19 years old when he opened his first restaurant in 1938. It was a 25-seat luncheonette in Waycross, Ga., called The Green Frog and promised "Service with a Hop."

Joe R. Lee and first Red Lobster management team
year 1968

The first Red Lobster opened in Lakeland, Fla., in 1968. Today, Red Lobster is the largest full-service seafood dining company in the world, serving nearly 3 million guests a week. Joe R. Lee (right) was on the management team of that first Red Lobster.

Bill Darden and Joe R. Lee in 1975
year 1975

Bill Darden (left) mentored Joe R. Lee, who became Red Lobster's president in 1975. Twenty years later, Lee was named the first Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Darden Restaurants.

George McKerrow Jr. and Father of LongHorn Steakhouse 1982
year 1982

George McKerrow Jr. and his father opened the first LongHorn steakhouse in Atlanta, Ga., in 1981. During the infamous 1982 Atlanta snow storm, stranded motorists were lured inside by $1 drinks and food specials. They were won over by awesome steaks and genuine hospitality.

First Olive Garden - Orlando, FL in 1982
year 1982

The first Olive Garden opened its doors in Orlando, Fla. in 1982. Olive Garden continues to be the number one full-service Italian restaurant company in the country.

Ned Grace in 1990 opens The Capital Grille
year 1990

Founder Ned Grace created a consumer favorite in the premium steakhouse category in 1990 with The Capital Grille. Nationally acclaimed for dry-aging steaks on the premises, it also features an award-winning wine list anda comfortable club-like atmosphere.

Darden Restaurants Inc. becomes a publicly traded company
year 1995

Darden Restaurants Inc. split from General Mills and became a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange in 1995. The new company was named for its founder, Bill Darden.

The Darden Foundation is created in 1995
year 1995

The Darden Restaurants, Inc. Foundation, created in 1995, gives millions of dollars to organizations each year. To mark Joe Lee's retirement in 2006, it funded a new Boys & Girls Club in Eatonville, Fla., the oldest African-American township in the U.S.

Bahama Breeze opens in 1996
year 1996

In 1996, Darden premiered an internally developed restaurant company called Bahama Breeze. With island inspired food and hand-crafted tropical drinks, Bahama Breeze provides the feeling of a Caribbean escape where guests are invited to "Feed Your Island Spirit."

Yard House Logo
year 1996

In 1996, founder Steele Platt opened the first Yard House in Long Beach, California, featuring a vast selection of draft beer, a continuous playlist of classic and contemporary rock, and an eclectic menu of both classic and innovative fare.

The Diamond Club was created in 1998
year 1998

In 1998, Diamond Club was created to recognize and celebrate the outstanding achievements of top restaurant leaders. The same year, the Brilliance Awards were created to recognize excellence among support center employees.

Darden Dimes - Helping Co-workers in Need
year 1999

The Darden Dimes Employee Assistance Program, started in 1999, is funded by Darden employees for Darden employees. The money helps co-workers in need.

Eddie Vs Logo
year 2000

In a place where steak is king, Guy Villavaso and Larry Foles recognized a unique opportunity for the underserved seafood niche and decided to take the steakhouse concept and flip it - opening the first Eddie V's Prime Seafood in Austin, Texas, in 2000.

Seasons 52 opens in 2003
year 2003

Seasons 52 opened in 2003 as a casually sophisticated, fresh grill restaurant that celebrates living well. It offers the sensational flavors of a seasonally inspired menu and more than 140 quality wines from around the world.

Clarence Otis and Drew Madsen in 2003
year 2004

Clarence Otis was named Darden's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. Drew Madsen was named Darden's President and Chief Operating Officer.

Darden purchases LongHorn and Capital Grille in 2007
year 2007

In 2007, Darden celebrated the addition of the LongHorn Steakhouse and The Capital Grille brands. This combination has made us an even stronger company.

Darden's Restaurant Support Center opens in 2009
year 2009

Darden's new Restaurant Support Center, opened in 2009, is a place of pride and performance that will help create a legacy of greatness for generations.

First LEED-certified Olive Garden restaurant
year 2010

Darden announces its Sustainable Restaurant Design Initiative and opens its first LEED-certified restaurant – an Olive Garden in Jonesboro, Ark.

Darden awarded FORTUNE's
year 2011

Darden celebrates being named to FORTUNE's list of the "100 Best Companies to Work For" in America. Darden is the first full-service restaurant company to ever make the list.

Michelle Obama attends Darden announcement in 2011
year 2011

Darden announces plans to reduce its calorie and sodium footprints by 20% over 10 years and to provide greater choice and variety on its children's menus. First Lady Michelle Obama attended the event and congratulated the company on its commitment to health & wellness.

Eddie Vs Restaurant Image
year 2011

In 2011, Darden's family of brands grew to seven with the addition of Eddie V's to its Specialty Restaurant Group.

Yard House Restaurant Image
year 2012

In 2012, Darden added Yard House to its Specialty Restaurant Group, bringing the total number of brands in its portfolio to eight.

Red Lobster Logo Image
year 2014

In 2014, Red Lobster was sold to Golden Gate Capital for $2.1 billion, reducing the total number of brands in Darden's portfolio to seven.