Come Out with Pride? Yes, we did, in a bigger way than ever for an exhilarating experience I’ll never forget. Darden always participates in the annual Pride event in Orlando, FL, but our presence last weekend was off the charts!
More than 150 team members from all brands, from our restaurants and the Restaurant Support Center in Orlando, along with their families and friends, took to the downtown streets Saturday, cheered on by people of all ages, races and backgrounds, many strangers to one another but unified in Pride.
Bahama Breeze’s rum truck, decorated with banners declaring “All for Rum, Rum for All” on a Pride rainbow backdrop, rolled along the parade route booming music while team members passed out T-shirts, beads and coupons.
Yard House and Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen team members wore their Pride gear and handed out branded Pride sunglasses and wristbands. Flags bearing our brand and Darden Pride Alliance Employee Resource Group logos waved in the sea of participants. Children of our team members passed out beads to other children.
Darden’s participation was not limited to the parade. The party started with Seasons 52, which catered the Big Gay Brunch, a ticketed event open to the public at The Abbey, an event space downtown. The Seasons 52 team served delicious brunch items, mimosas and bloody marys while guests enjoyed music by a local DJ and entertainment from local artists.
Darden also hosted a booth in the Pride Marketplace at Lake Eola where visitors used iPads to join our eClubs and apply for positions in our restaurants. They spun our prize wheel to win Eddie V’s T-shirts, cocktail shakers and wine stoppers; LongHorn Steakhouse oven mitts and earbuds; and The Capital Grille T-shirts and wine journals. One lucky winner took home a large LongHorn gift basket.
Still, the hit of the day seemed to be Olive Garden’s breadsticks, baked fresh on the spot. More than 22,000 of them were served! Some comments from the crowd: “Oh my God, are those Olive Garden breadsticks?” and “This is the best day of my life. Go, Olive Garden!”
For me, just back from the Out & Equal Workplace Summit in Seattle earlier this month, the day’s events brought home the conference motto: “You Belong Here.” This message of inclusivity and belonging assures all of us in the LGBTQ and ally community that we belong — at work, in life, in our families and in our communities.
During the conference, speakers shared powerful words inspiring us to show up, speak up and stand up for each other. To have the courage to be the voice in the room for others who feel they can’t speak up, to bring our authentic selves to work every day, and to challenge ourselves to let go of our fears and embrace who we are.
At the Pride events, Darden, with its strong representation from all of our brands, exemplified that powerful message, telling its LGBTQ and ally team members: “You Belong Here!”