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Darden Restaurants, Inc.

Darden Restaurants, Inc.
Orlando-based Darden Restaurants is considered the world's largest casual dining restaurant company in terms of market share and annual sales. Restaurant entrepreneur Bill Darden, who opened the first Red Lobster restaurant in Lakeland in 1968, founded the company. Darden is considered one of the pioneers in the development of full-service chain restaurants in the United States.

Since its founding, it has grown to operate more than 1,700 restaurants in North America with about 170,000 employees. Darden was a subsidiary of General Mills from 1970 until 1995, when it was spun off as a separately held publicly traded company. The company's headquarters was moved to Orlando when it beca...
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Orlando-based Darden Restaurants is considered the world's largest casual dining restaurant company in terms of market share and annual sales. Restaurant entrepreneur Bill Darden, who opened the first Red Lobster restaurant in Lakeland in 1968, founded the company. Darden is considered one of the pioneers in the development of full-service chain restaurants in the United States.

Since its founding, it has grown to operate more than 1,700 restaurants in North America with about 170,000 employees. Darden was a subsidiary of General Mills from 1970 until 1995, when it was spun off as a separately held publicly traded company. The company's headquarters was moved to Orlando when it became a division of General Mills.

Darden is most closely associated with its two largest restaurant brands: Red Lobster and Olive Garden. Both of those chains now have more than 600 locations. The company's attempt to diversify its restaurant holdings has had mixed results. In 1995, Darden shut down an internally developed Chinese restaurant chain called China Coast. Since its spin-off, Darden has also created a barbecue and sports bar-themed restaurant group called Smokey Bones, a Caribbean-themed chain called Bahama Breeze, and a higher-end group of restaurants called Seasons 52. The company announced its intention to sell its Smokey Bones restaurants in May 2007, admitting that the brand did not have the potential to become a national chain. In August, Darden agreed to purchase Rare Hospitality International, which operates the LongHorn Steakhouse and Capital Grille restaurant chains, for an estimated value of $1.4 billion.

Clarence Otis, who took over the company from long-time chief Joe Lee in 2005, serves as chairman and chief executive officer. Darden posted $5.6 billion in annual sales in fiscal year 2007. Its shares are traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol DRI.
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  • Once a busboy, he's now in charge at Darden

     Once a busboy, he's now in charge at Darden
    Gene Lee bussed tables at York Steak House as a teenager, lugging dishes from tables to the kitchen for the chain of cafeterias in the Northeast.
  • Ruby Tuesday eyes Orlando for office, 45 jobs

    Ruby Tuesday eyes Orlando for office, 45 jobs
    Restaurant chain Ruby Tuesday could get $378,000 in state and local incentives to create a 45-employee corporate satellite office in Orlando. "What they are doing is looking at several locations across the nation where they might open some kind of...

    Darden names Gene Lee as new CEO

    Darden names Gene Lee as new CEO
    Staying the course it set last fall, Darden Restaurants picked Gene Lee on Monday to lead a company trying to revive its ailing flagship Olive Garden. Lee has been running Darden as interim CEO since October, shortly after activist investor Starboard...

    Darden names interim CEO Lee to post permanently

    Darden Restaurants Inc. has named interim CEO Eugene I. Lee Jr. to the post on a permanent basis. The appointment is effective immediately, the operator of Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and other restaurants said Monday. Lee will also become a...

    Red Lobster ready to move into new downtown HQ

     Red Lobster ready to move into new downtown HQ
    Red Lobster is ready to move into its new corporate headquarters in downtown Orlando. The newly independent company is will spend the next two weekends moving 300 employees from Darden headquarters on John Young Parkway to the CNL Tower 1 next to City...