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Enabling Employees to Make a Real Difference in their Backyards

April 24, 2013

By: Drew Madsen, President and Chief Operating Officer of Darden Restaurants

Enabling Employees to Make a Real Difference in their Backyards

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Through our Restaurant Community Grants program, now in its second year, we have a unique opportunity to address the needs of hundreds of local communities and make a real difference. The program empowers each restaurant in the Darden family to help award a $1,000 grant to support local community programs that align with three focus areas: access to postsecondary education, preservation of natural resources and hunger.

In this way, the program enables our employees to identify programs they want to support, and select a nonprofit to address local issues, deepening our meaningful local connections. This year, we awarded more than $1.9 million to more than 850 exceptional nonprofits across the U.S. and Canada thanks to the participation of more than 95 percent of our restaurants.

Making a difference in every “backyard” our restaurants serve brings to life Darden’s culture of service every day through our employees. In fact, employees who say they can make an impact while on the job report higher levels of job satisfaction – by a 2:1 ratio according to Net Impact’s “What Workers Want” Survey.  The Restaurant Community Grants program truly reflects our core value of “Being of Service” which can be traced back to our founder, Bill Darden. We are proud to continue to bring real, local citizenship to life and strive to benefit the communities where our employees live and work.

There are countless unique stories from grants awarded by our restaurant teams and the Darden Foundation. In Washington D.C., because of 23 surrounding Darden restaurants, 70,000 nutritious meals will be provided to children of low-income families through Kids Café, a free after-school and summer meal program. In Atlanta, 28 restaurants are supporting Boys & Girls Clubs branches and vital after-school programs that prepare children for high school and postsecondary opportunities. And in Los Angeles, Orange County CoastKeeper received support from six of our restaurants for their interactive program on a 2.5-acre garden to help teach the community about the region's local environment and how to preserve natural resources.

I am proud of each of our restaurant teams across the country. Keep an eye out to see what the Darden Foundation and the Restaurant Community Grants program has done in your community. 


Drew Madsen is President and Chief Operating Officer of Darden Restaurants.  He has strategic and operational responsibility for 1,800 Red Lobster, Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse restaurants throughout North America.

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