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Darden Restaurants Inc.

Darden Restaurants Inc.’s roots go back to 1938, when founder Bill Darden, then 19, opened his first restaurant, The Green Frog, in Waycross, Ga. The 25-seat luncheonette promised “Service with a Hop” and set Darden’s early standards for casual dining.

Darden went on to create the Red Lobster brand in 1968 and sold it to General Mills in 1970. General Mills spun the company, including the Olive Garden concept founded in 1982, off into a public restaurant company in 1995.

More than 80 years after the Green Frog’s founding, Orlando, Fla.-based Darden owns and operates more than 1,800 casual-dining restaurants across North America. Darden’s portfolio spans eight brands, including Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen, Yard House, The Capital Grille, Seasons 52, Bahama Breeze and Eddie V’s. Capital Grille also has two Capital Burger units, which emphasize a menu of elevated burgers.

In June 2014, Darden sold its full-service Red Lobster concept to private equity firm Golden Gate Capital after a prolonged battle and board-seat proxy fight with activist investors Barington Capital Group L.P. and Starboard Value L.P.

In April 2017, the company acquired the Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen concept.

The Darden Restaurants brands have remained a holdout from participating in third-party delivery platforms, but Olive Garden does do its own large-order delivery and brands provide curbside pickup and other to-go services.

Headquarters: Orlando, Fla.

Segment: Casual Dining

Restaurant Segment: FSR Italian Pizza, FSR Seafood/Steak, FSR American,

Number of Locations: 1,822 (as of Feb. 28, 2021)

2020 Sales: Olive Garden, $3.55 billion; LongHorn Steakhouse, $1.59 billion; Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen, $491.8 million; Yard House, $424.2 million; The Capital Grille, $306.6 million; Seasons 52, $236.5 million; and Bahama Breeze, $242.6 million.

Source: Datassential Firefly 500

CEO: Gene Lee