In fact, it’s no exaggeration to say our biggest brands have become icons themselves. Since opening our first Red Lobster restaurant in Lakeland, Fla., in 1968, Darden has grown to become the world’s largest full-service restaurant company. Through subsidiaries, we own and operate more than 2,000 restaurants, employ 185,000 people and serve more than 400 million meals a year.
That last number reveals something telling about how we do business. In serving that many meals, we’ve come to know our guests extremely well. From them, we’ve realized what it takes to create an environment of natural hospitality and to build enduring brands. It’s why we’re able to make our guests feel so welcome, special and at ease.
We have a lengthy track record of creating and growing enduring brands. As Fast Company pointed out in its July/August 2009 issue,
we’ve truly become the full-service dining company that feeds America. What ultimately
sets Darden apart is our understanding of our guests. We work hard to deliver an
exceptional guest experience that involves more than just fresh, delicious food
at an affordable price.
At each of our restaurant brands, that special experience differs. At Red Lobster, it’s the promise of a refreshing seaside dining experience; at Olive Garden, it's an idealized Italian family meal; and at LongHorn Steakhouse, it's savoring a great steakhouse meal served with Genuine Western Hospitality. At Bahama Breeze, it's a Caribbean escape; at Seasons 52 it's a fresh approach to dining that celebrates living well; at The Capital Grille, it's guests enjoying a personalized experience reminiscent of being in a private club that's open to the public; at Eddie V's it's an experience inspired by the great seafood restaurants of New Orleans, San Francisco and Boston; and at Yard House, it's a crafted food, draught beer and cocktail experience in a social, "come as you are" environment.
At each restaurant brand, all the details tie to the particular experience – the menu, the decor, the team training, and even the advertising. Whatever the dining experience we’ve crafted for a brand, it has a lasting impact on guests. This explains why at one Olive Garden, a young woman began to show up nearly every Thursday night by herself at the same table. That’s where her husband, a soldier, had proposed to her on a Thursday night in 2003. When he went off to combat duty in Iraq, she began her weekly visits, “wanting to feel closer to my husband,” she wrote the restaurant’s general manager.