A Message from Gene Lee to All Team Members

December 17, 2021


This morning we announced our FY22 Q2 results, and I am pleased to share that we had a fantastic quarter. Despite the toughest inflationary environment we have seen in years, we achieved strong, profitable sales growth. Our success is a testament to the outstanding work our restaurant teams are doing to deliver great guest experiences, and the tremendous support our RSC team is providing our restaurants.

I am proud of everything we have accomplished. We continue to simplify the work in our restaurants to eliminate distractions so we can execute at the highest level. Additionally, we are making good progress on the staffing and supply chain fronts, allowing us to deliver exceptional guest experiences. Most importantly, we continue to invest in our people. Beginning January 1, we will increase the minimum hourly earnings for restaurant team members to $12, which includes income earned through gratuities. We planned to do this in 2023, but we accelerated the timing given the strength of our performance. This primarily impacts entry-level roles such as hosts, bussers and dishwashers. And with this change, we expect our restaurant team members will earn, on average, approximately $20 per hour.

Today, we also announced that I will retire as CEO at the end of this fiscal year, and Rick Cardenas, our President and Chief Operating Officer, will become CEO at that time. This is the right time for this transition, and I look forward to continuing to serve as Darden’s Chairman. Our company is in a clear position of strength, and this is also the right time for me and my family.

I am excited for Rick — who has been a tremendous partner over these last seven years and is one of the best strategic thinkers I have ever worked alongside. Our brands have tremendous opportunity ahead of them, and Rick is the perfect person to lead Darden into this next chapter.

It has been my greatest honor to lead Darden for seven years and to work alongside all of you. The success we have enjoyed, and the challenges we have overcome, are the result of a lot of hard work by a lot of great people. I am proud of the fact that the strategy we implemented in 2015, grounded in our Back-to-Basics Operating Philosophy and our four competitive advantages, allowed us to strengthen and grow our business — even during the most challenging time in our industry’s history.

Since beginning my career 45 years ago as a high school kid bussing tables, I have been captivated by the energy, excitement and camaraderie that comes from working in a restaurant. I know first-hand the type of opportunity our industry provides people, and I am most proud of the opportunities Darden has created for thousands of individuals to build a meaningful career with us.

To every team member in our restaurants, and at our restaurant support center: You are the lifeblood of our company, and I am incredibly grateful for your passion for being of service to others as you bring our brands to life every day. I have tremendous confidence in Darden’s future knowing that our success is fueled by the best team in the industry.

Thank you, and I wish you and your family a wonderful holiday season.

Gene Lee