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Darden shuffles execs at top brands

Darden Restaurants Inc. has appointed new leaders for its two flagship brands, Red Lobster and Olive Garden, in a series of in-house promotions, the company said Monday.

Dave Pickens, formerly president of Olive Garden, has been named president of the 694-unit Red Lobster chain. Pickens replaces Kim Lopdrup, who was promoted to senior vice president of business development for Orlando, Fla.-based Darden.

John Caron, Darden’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer, will replace Pickens as president of the 743-unit Olive Garden, the company said.

Meanwhile, J.J. Buettgen, the company’s senior vice president of business development, will move into the CMO role.

When the promotions take effect May 30, Lopdrup will report to Darden’s chairman and chief executive, Clarence Otis, while Pickens, Caron and Buettgen will report to Drew Madsen, the company’s president and chief operating officer.

Otis described the executive changes as evidence of Darden’s “deep talent bench that can be leveraged to bring fresh perspectives to some of our most important leadership positions.”

“The ability to reach across our business for talented and experienced professionals to lead us into the next phase of our growth reflects our consistent investment over many years in attracting, developing and nurturing outstanding individuals with a diverse array of skills,” he said in a statement.

In addition to Red Lobster and Olive Garden, Darden owns LongHorn Steakhouse, The Capital Grille, Bahama Breeze and Seasons 52. The company operates 1,868 restaurants across all of its brands.

Contact Molly Gise at [email protected].

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