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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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  • First lady announces restaurant chain's plan to cut calories, sodium

    — First Lady Michelle Obama applauded the parent company of Olive Garden and Red Lobster Thursday for pledging to cut calories and sodium at its restaurants over the next 10 years.
  • 4 good business stories: Real estate, layoffs, Disney, Darden

    4 good business stories: Real estate, layoffs, Disney, Darden
    Today is one of those days when the Sentinel is chock full of excellent business journalism from my colleagues. Leading off is Mary Shanklin’s front page update on numbers and the story behind international buyers dropping cash on Central...

    Firms squabble over control of Darden board

    Firms squabble over control of Darden board
    Glass Lewis Inc., a noted Wall Street proxy fight advisory firm, says Darden Restaurants shareholders should vote to replace the entire board of directors with picks from activist Starboard Value. But another advisory firm, Egan-Jones Proxy Services,...

    First Chicago Olive Garden opening next week

    First Chicago Olive Garden opening next week
    Olive Garden will open its first restaurant in Chicago later this month, featuring its new logo and remodel design — and, of course, free salad and breadsticks. The 7,780-square-foot restaurant at 3555 West Addison St., the first in the Chicago...

    Shareholder group sues Darden over Red Lobster sale

     Shareholder group sues Darden over Red Lobster sale
    Darden Restaurants is facing a second lawsuit from a Teamsters shareholder group in Connecticut over the controversial sale of Red Lobster in July. The new suit, filed on behalf of Teamsters Local 443 Health Services and Insurance Plan in Connecticut,...