September 19, 2013
As part of our company's Hispanic Heritage Month celebration, today's Darden Digest post comes from Valerie Insignares, President of LongHorn Steakhouse. Val has been with Darden since 1997 and President of LongHorn since January 2013. Previously, Val served as Chief Restaurant Operations Officer for Darden.
Throughout my time with Darden, one of the things I have always valued the most is the emphasis we place on our people and the unique backgrounds and heritages they bring to the workplace each day. We believe our diverse workforce allows us to draw on multiple perspectives and learn from each other, giving us a great competitive advantage. In fact, diversity is so important to us it’s one of our company’s core values. It also led us to create Employee Resource Groups (ERG) for our teams at our Restaurant Support Center and in the field to create networks of employees to promote leadership, development and inclusion.
One such group is the Hispanic ERG, which was started as a way to foster and develop the Hispanic community within Darden and our restaurants as well as the communities Darden serves. As the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants on my father’s side, and as the wife of a Colombian-American, this ERG’s goals are dear to my heart; so much so that I previously served as the group’s executive sponsor.
This month the Hispanic ERG is leading our participation in National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15. Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens with Hispanic backgrounds. We’ll be offering many activities to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with our employees. I am particularly excited for all the food-related events like cooking classes and salsa tastings. Growing up, my family was always coming together around food, and all my memories of my grandmother are of her in the kitchen, typically making tortillas, sopa or mole sauce. Even on Thanksgiving, we would eat turkey with mole sauce. Mole is still my favorite comfort food that I continue to make today (although I use my own shortcut with jarred mole and a crock pot).
Another Hispanic Heritage Month activity I am excited that we offer to our employees and that I am proud to have been a part of before is our Leadership Panel, where Hispanic leaders throughout the company help our future leaders learn lessons and tips for how they can pursue their professional goals. I grew up in a diverse community with many hardworking people and my parents encouraged me to go to college. I’ve had the great fortune of having a rewarding career and being able to mentor my two daughters and future Darden leaders with similar backgrounds.
I am excited for such a packed month of activities and opportunities to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with my colleagues. Throughout the month, we’ll be featuring additional stories to celebrate, so be sure to check back in.