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Darden shakes up leadership structure

Specialty Restaurant Group president to leave company; new CFO named

Darden Restaurants Inc. said Wednesday that it plans to reorganize its Specialty Restaurant Group in a bid to decentralize the company following the departure of the group’s president, Harald Herrmann.

Darden also named Ricardo Cardenas the company’s chief financial officer effective immediately. He replaces Jeffrey Davis, who left Darden after just eight months “to pursue opportunities outside the organization.”

The announcements came on a day when Darden said that it expects companywide same-store sales for the quarter ended Feb. 28 to have increased 6 percent. On a calendar consistent with the same period a year ago, however, same-store sales likely increased 4 percent, the company said.

“Our continued success and momentum is a direct result of executing against our plan and maintaining our focus on consistently delivering outstanding guest experiences,” Gene Lee, Darden president and CEO, said in a statement. “I am confident that the leadership appointments and organizational changes we announced today will further strengthen our organization and will allow us to maintain our positive momentum.”

Darden said that it expects its adjusted earnings per share to be $1.18 to $1.21 for the quarter, results that were above Wall Street expectations for the period. The company’s stock rose 2 percent in pre-market trading Wednesday.

The Orlando-based casual-dining operator will end the Specialty Restaurant Group and decentralize the operating structure. The Capital Grille, Eddie V’s and Yard House will all report directly to Lee. Dave George, president of Olive Garden, will also oversee Seasons 52 and Bahama Breeze.

Herrmann, who founded Yard House, came to the company in 2012 when Darden bought the chain. He will remain with Darden through August as senior vice president of special projects.

Cardenas was elevated to CFO from chief strategy officer. He had worked with Darden starting in 1984 as an hourly employee and left in 1996 before returning in 2001. He has held multiple finance roles during his tenure with the company.

Correction: March 9, 2016  This story has been updated to identify Darden Restaurants Inc. president and CEO Gene Lee.

Contact Jonathan Maze at [email protected]
Follow him on Twitter: @jonathanmaze

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