Twelve years ago, when I started with Olive Garden as a bartender, I knew I had joined a company that is judgment-free and values diversity. As I worked my way up and entered the Manager-in-Training program, I learned how much our diverse culture is rooted within the company. I wanted to make sure to continue that tradition as a restaurant leader.
I had learned in my life that I never wanted to be labeled or judged for being gay. We are all individuals and should be treated as such, and I’m thankful to have found a company that values me as an individual. About two years ago, I was promoted to General Manager. As I went through additional training to prepare me for my new role, I also went through a diversity component. After the training, I felt empowered and ready to carry on Darden’s core values within my restaurant. As the General Manager, I knew that I had an important responsibility to lead by example and influence the culture of the restaurant.
I was always impressed by how Darden treats every employee with respect and fairness, which is how I always try to treat others. In my restaurant in McKinney, Texas, I wanted to create an open and supportive environment among my team members. We talk about the importance of diversity when new team members go through orientation. And as a team, we’ve come up with our philosophy that labels are for clothes. My team members are so supportive of one another and have taken advantage of the opportunity to learn about different cultures or ways of life that they may not have been exposed to.
I’m so proud of the diversity of my restaurant team. We are truly an embodiment of the community we serve. I’m proud of all my team members for representing their true selves and embracing our culture of openness and acceptance.
By: Kerry Bowden, General Manager, Olive Garden
Pictured: (from left to right) Kerry Bowden, Kadi Magee, Denikka Hicks, Amanda Cipparuolo and Sam Bayyouk from the Olive Garden restaurant in McKinney, Texas.
Kerry and his team embody Darden’s core value of diversity. We’re proud of Kerry and all our leaders, who promote our strong values and a culture where our team members can thrive. We are honored to announce that, for the third year in a row, Darden has received a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s annual Corporate Equality Index. Click here to learn more about this achievement.