July is National Culinary Arts Month and a great opportunity to celebrate our industry. According to the National Restaurant Association, there are more than 13.5 million restaurant industry employees, which is about 10% of the overall U.S. workforce. Eight in 10 restaurant owners started their industry careers in entry-level positions, and nine in 10 salaried restaurant employees started as hourly employees.
We’re proud to support programs that enrich our industry and the lives of individuals looking for a rewarding career. Programs like the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s ProStart program, which currently has more than 95,000 students in 1,900 high schools across the country. ProStart provides students with culinary training classes as part of their typical high school curriculums. The program brings to life the culinary industry and requires students to master skills, gain knowledge and participate in hands-on experiences. Darden also awards scholarships to ProStart students so they can continue their culinary educations in college. Last year, Darden scholarship recipients attended schools such as the Culinary Institute of America, Johnson & Wales University and the New England Culinary Institute. These students enrolled in college programs ranging from Hospitality Management to Culinary Business to Baking & Pastry Arts.
In Darden’s hometown of Orlando, Florida, we sponsored the creation of the Darden Foundation Community Kitchen at Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, a 2,000 square-foot commercial kitchen. Within the kitchen, Second Harvest facilitates its Culinary Training Program, which provides at-risk and economically disadvantaged adults with culinary and life skills training to become employable in the industry. This is a 14-week program provided to the individuals at no charge. Graduates credit the program with transforming their lives and have secured culinary positions at some of the largest restaurants, companies and hotels in the area.
One-third of Americans get their first work experience in restaurants. We’re proud that half of our restaurant managers are promoted from hourly positions, and nearly 100 percent of our General Managers and Managing Partners came from within our restaurant manager ranks. We also offer restaurant management internships in our restaurants to college students pursuing hospitality degrees and a Manager in Training (MIT) program for recent graduates. Interns and MITs are able to combine their previous restaurant experiences with their educational experiences as they continue to grow within our company.
We’re proud of all our employees who have a passion for the industry and who work hard to delight our guests every day.
Pictured: The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s ProStart Summer Institutes train ProStart educators in cutting-edge skills they can apply back in the classroom. (Photo Credit: Nancy Pierce Photography)