Darden uses water directly in our operations, primarily in our kitchens for preparing and cooking food, hand washing and cleaning, as well as in restaurant restrooms and for landscape irrigation. We also use water indirectly through our purchasing of a wide variety of foods that require inputs of water to produce and process.
We have been able to achieve dramatic progress by taking a variety of steps – some seemingly small, others more significant and most invisible to our guests. And many in partnership with our employee Sustainability Teams, which are groups of employees in each of our restaurants that implement programs aimed at reducing waste, energy and water usage, as well as identify new ways to improve the sustainability performance of our restaurants. Collectively this has had a huge impact.
In FY2009, we set a corporate-wide goal to reduce our direct water usage by 15% per restaurant by 2015. While our overall performance trend is positive – in fact, we achieved our 2015 target ahead of schedule – between FY2012 and FY2013, our per restaurant water use increased. We are still working to understand the factors that contributed to increased water use, while continuing to implement new water-saving initiatives.
We are continuing to test new dipper well technologies that can significantly reduce water within our restaurants. Darden also recently expanded a water-saving irrigation pilot program from two restaurants to 50 additional restaurants in Florida and California, where water is under the most strain.