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Food for Thought: Diversity

October 15, 2014

By: Jose Duenas, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Olive Garden

Food for Thought: Diversity

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From my perspective, diversity is the main engine of creativity and innovation within great organizations. Diverse teams tend to generate the best ideas, allowing individuals bring their unique perspectives to the table and shed new light on business opportunities and challenges.

As a marketer and a leader, I greatly value diverse perspectives. Diversity extends beyond race, gender or culture to include ways of thinking and approaching situations. Great ideas can come from everywhere, but they more frequently come from teams that truly embrace diversity.

Take, as an example, another passion of ours here at Darden: food. Great recipes are inspired by diversity. When people with diverse backgrounds “fuse” new flavors together, true culinary innovation comes to life. Even something so familiar as spaghetti and tomato sauce only came together after noodles, with origins that trace back to Asia, and tomatoes, which are native to the Americas, made their way to Italy in the 1800s. (One of our executive chefs, Chef Paolo, will not agree with this fact as he believes ALL great food was discovered in Italy.)

This is my first year serving as executive advisor of our Hispanic Employee Resource Group (ERG), and I’m very excited to be more involved in this great community of my colleagues. The Hispanic ERG celebrates the Hispanic culture through professional development of our members, celebrations and education of our culture, and partnerships and philanthropy in our community. The ERG is an embodiment of our employees’ commitment and passion for diversity.

We have six ERGs at the Darden Restaurant Support Center that provide members with opportunities to learn, grow and network. Our ERGs are instrumental in helping us better serve our guests by drawing upon multiple perspectives.

As an executive advisor of the Hispanic ERG, my role is to be a champion for the ERG and to help foster the passion of its members. I’m so proud of our members and the leadership skills that I see them develop through our network. The success and engagement of our ERG is a testament to the leadership and devotion of our ERG’s leadership team and members.

Hispanic Heritage Month was a great time to celebrate the Hispanic culture and our commitment to diversity that can be seen in all our employees. Our ERG’s leadership team planned and executed great events for the month, such as a community service project to help fight global hunger, a Paella cooking class, a networking event at The Capital Grille, and a motivational speaker and panel discussion. I enjoyed seeing my fellow colleagues and hoped everyone ended Hispanic Heritage Month feeling more enriched.

By: Jose Duenas, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Olive Garden

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