Darden Digest

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Reaffirming Our Commitment to Our Values

June 01, 2020

by Gene Lee, President and CEO

General Topics:
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Reaffirming Our Commitment to Our Values

Photo Credit: Darden Restaurants

Reaffirming Our Commitment to Our Values

June 01, 2020

by Gene Lee, President and CEO

General Topics:
Brand Categories:

I began writing this note with the intention of simply providing you with an update on our business. I planned to share with you the pride I feel as I return to our restaurants — as a guest and as a leader. I wanted to tell you how amazed and inspired I am by our restaurant teams who arrive every day ready and eager to serve their communities … that your tireless commitment to serving your guests and each other is the cornerstone of what makes Darden special … that I have been reminded once again, that you are truly our greatest competitive advantage.

However, I couldn’t deliver my typical business update in the shadow of recent events. Today is different.

In the wake of the tragic death of George Floyd and countless others, we cannot ignore the pain and fear that exists in the communities where we live and work. Our communities are struggling under the weight of this public health crisis — with economic distress and uncertainty — and the anger and injustice associated with racism and racial inequality. For many, this has been a difficult few months. For far too many, difficult is a way of life.

Today, I reaffirm my commitment to our deeply held values of inclusion and diversity and to our intolerance for injustice and discrimination. And I am asking each of you to do the same.

At Darden, I am proud of the culture we have built in our restaurants and at the support center. As I have said before, I believe it is this culture that has helped us navigate through the impact of COVID-19, and I believe that it is this culture that can help us heal ourselves, each other and our communities. We must continue to create and maintain an environment that includes everyone, supports everyone and protects everyone. I know we are not perfect, but you have my commitment that we will work together to get better — every day.

I do not pretend to fully understand the struggle plaguing so many of our team members, guests and neighbors — nor do I have all the answers. The realities that exist in our world today are difficult to process. However, I remain an optimist. I believe that the greatest minds of our generation will find a vaccine for COVID-19 that will help avoid future public health and economic distress. I believe that if we are compassionate, lead with empathy, hold true to our values and open ourselves up to learn and grow, we all can help create racial equality in this country. And I believe that our best days as a nation, and as a company, are ahead of us.