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Rising Through the Ranks
  • More than 500 of Darden's 1,900 general managers (nearly 30% of our total) rose from the hourly ranks and now run businesses that register between $3 million and $10 million a year in sales.
  • 45% of the graduates of our Manager in Training programs started as hourly employees.
Darden understands that nurturing individual employees ultimately benefits the entire company. We know that today’s team members are tomorrow’s leaders, so we do all that we can to support and encourage their personal growth within the company. Enabling employees to develop a strong sense of personal pride and accomplishment is critical to their success, and supports our company’s growth.

A recent employee survey showed that 82 percent of Darden workers were proud to work for the company, and 84 percent felt Darden is a great place to have a job. Our culture puts a tremendous value on helping employees achieve their own potential and encourages everyone to pursue their dreams. Evidence of our success in nurturing employees can be found in the hundreds of examples of people who have risen through the ranks to various levels of management. Here are just a few of the personal success stories that exemplify the advancement opportunities at Darden:

Souni Felipa – In Pursuit of a Career Dream
Souni started as a server at The Capital Grille in Miami, but soon took advantage of the company’s career advancement opportunities. After impressing a supervisor with his serving skills, knowledge, and passion, he was promoted to an in-restaurant training position and then to Lead Server Trainer, traveling the country helping train servers for newly opened locations of The Capital Grille. Today, Souni is a member of the management team at the Chrysler Center location in New York City.
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Kay Francis – Encouraged to Achieve Success
After working at Darden as a temporary employee, Kay quickly discovered a passion for the company and took a full-time position as Purchasing Coordinator. Her supervisors immediately recognized her potential, along with her results-driven, team-oriented attitude, which has led to a series of promotions. Today, she is Director of Food Service Distribution for Darden Restaurants, responsible for more than 32 million cases of food shipped annually, totaling more than $1 billion in spending.
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Lisa Hoggs – Taking the Reins on Career Advancement
Lisa started as a server at the LongHorn Steakhouse in College Park, Ga., and has worked her way up to Managing Partner of the Akers Mill restaurant in Atlanta. She credits the tremendous training and education programs with her success, along with the encouragement of her managers and the many career opportunities Darden offers. Going above and beyond for 150 grateful Mary Kay conference attendees who showed up at her restaurant all at once didn’t hurt her reputation for taking the bull by the horns either. Lisa is especially appreciative of Darden’s rich history of diversity.
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Dave Pickens – Career Climb to the Top
Dave began his career as a line cook at Red Lobster at the age of 17 and later joined Olive Garden where he rose through the ranks to become President. In 2011, he returned to his roots at Darden to become President of Red Lobster, where he leads a company with 705 restaurants, more than 58,000 employees and $2.6 billion in annual sales.
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Mandy Thomson – Discovering Hidden Talents
Mandy started her career at Darden as a server in one of Olive Garden’s Oklahoma City restaurants at the age of 19. She rapidly climbed the company’s ranks, serving as a Certified Trainer, Sales Manager, Service Manager, Culinary Manager, and now as General Manager in the Olive Garden in Casper, Wy. Despite being painfully shy early in her career, her bosses saw the potential in her and encouraged her personal and professional growth. Today, her shyness is a thing of the past and she confidently oversees a staff of hundreds. Read More...