Darn that Darden: Another Story to Ruin My Black History Month

Darn that Darden: Another Story to Ruin My Black History Month
CEO Ouchie by the Big Red Lobster

In case you haven’t seen this on the web or your local news,Darden Restaurants the mega food corporation with 2,000 restaurants nationwide including Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, The Capital Grille, Bahama Breeze, and Seasons 52 and annual sales of $7.5 billion is under fire and being sued because of alleged racial discrimination in hiring, wages and promotion.

Restaurant Opportunities Centers United filed a lawsuit January 31 against Darden’s Capital Grille in federal court in Chicago on behalf of workers in Chicago, New York and Washington, saying the company discriminates against workers. The biggest beef, excuse the pun, is about the Capital Grille Steakhouse. According to the complaint, jobs such as dish washer and food preparer are given to people of color, while positions such as servers and bartenders, where customer tips are common, went to white applicants. Capital Grille is billed as their upscale establishment where tips make a big difference in earning capacity.

Darden Inc. has long pointed to its CEO, Clarence Otis, with pride as a minority who started at the bottom and worked his way up. I guess he should have been at the top.  Otis graduated magna cum laude from Williams College in economics and political science.  From there he went on to Stanford Law.  Otis might have been busing dishes in high school or something but I don’t consider a resume including his education as an exhibit of a man who worked his way out of the kitchen.  Matter of fact Otis was recruited by Darden Restaurants in Orlando for the post of treasurer, overseeing finance activities for the 1,200-restaurant chain in 1995.  That position is not exactly dishwashing.

Fortune 500 called Darden “a diversity champion,”noting that 30 % of restaurants’ managers are minorities and 41% are women.  So what’s the real deal?  I’m waiting to find out.

Not that I am a fan of Red Lobster and I don’t even consider Olive Garden Italian fare (more like fair American pseudo Italian) so boycotting the chain won’t be an issue.  I do hope though, that this company with an accomplished black man at the helm, will either be proven not-guilty or will make it right for all its employees.


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  • I'm not a fan of darden group at all, but I know people who are. They complain about the lack of their restaurants in predominately black areas. When they go to the location by ford city or oaklawn the majority of the patrons are black. In 2012 restaurants are still ignoring the massive consumer spending power on the south side. Oh well their loss, less competition for everyone else.

  • In reply to carmelcutie:

    Hey Carmel, I'm with you. I don't care if the CEO is black. I'm all for the boycott. As I said earlier, the foods not that great. If you want an inexpensive but tasty meal on the quick, try H-Dogs at 47th and King Drive. In fact, this place beats the hell out of Micky D's any day of the week. I ran into a group of about eight white visitors from upstate Michigan taking the number 3 bus from McCormick place to get a gourmet hot dog at H-Dog. It's worth the trip. While you're there try the truffle dusted french fries or the sweet potato fries.

  • In reply to Danie:

    Hello Danie, you are comparing two completely different types of food: a hot dog and a steak! I do not doubt your HDog serves great hotdogs but in comparison you are categorizing similalry a peanut butter and jelly sandwhich to a lobster. Additionally, I am certain the quality of food at Long Horn is AMAZING! The meat has never been frozen and they raise their own Longhorn cattle, which is their primary source for food. If that is not setting an example for most corporations that serve over priced frozen meats from Wal Mart than I dont know what it is you set your own standards from.

  • The ugly truth is in the hospitality industry looks are very impoprtant. This is why despite advancements in technology many places still require you to apply in person. You must apply in your hottest yet still modest buisness causal outfit to be considered for front of house positions. They will usually hire younger more attactive cheerful women or young studs for the front of house position such as waitress/waiter or host/hostess.

  • In reply to carmelcutie:

    This used to be the case in the "stewardess" jobs. What changed it? People started suing for just the ugly truth you mention. All kinds of people eat, fat people, skinny people, dark people, etc. The industry needs to wake up. If suing them helps to open their eyes, I say go for it.

    Also I can't remember where I read this but Capital Grille supposedly fired workers of color to replace them with whites in the same positions. If Darden considers the color of one's skin as a strike against a water or waitress they need to get hit in the pocket. Haven't they heard that black is beautiful for that matter so is brown, yellow, tan and even white.

  • FYI your facts are wrong. You really should do a little research before slandering others. Applicants must use an online application system and can't eve be interviewed until their application is electronically and anonymously screened. Also the local garden ha a very diverse team out front. One stroke of the brush does not a portrait make.

  • In reply to Rukidding:

    yes the initial application is supposedly done on line, but as a darden employee I know that is alot of time by passed. the people who are considered younger and more attractive are given second interviews over more qualified applicants. as are people who walk in the door and managers like thier physical apperance. they pull the application and hire them based on quote from several managers "are they hot" as with most systems there is always a way around what the company wants to get what appeals to them personaly. i know as a fact darden is not loyal to it's older employees and tries to get rid of them and hire younger people to replace them. we have train are replacements. they make the ststement that older employees have bad habits that they don't want to inherit, but bad habits and bad behavior can start on day one or 10 years if not corrected and replaced with good ones. your only as good as the people who lead the team.

  • In reply to purelife:

    Where are you receiving your information. It sounds like speculation and assumptions rather than truths and reality. I enjoy all of Darden restaurant, and eat at many of them frequently. Never have I noticed primarily young and hot employees! I notice the service that is being delivered with the quality of food rather than the age and looks of employees. I will try and support some of what you are saying by agreeing that image and appearance are very important, but only to the extent of proper hygeine and clean uniforms, not by wieght, color, age, and beauty. If this is what you are interested in their are several bars world wide which I recommend you check out instead. I find it very sad that you are slandering these restaurants with the information you are providing and for that I pity you and have very much sympathy for you becasue of your lack of knowledge and your inability to decipher the differences between facts and assumptions. It is people like you who create law suits based on ignorance, assumptions, and stereotypical statement which do not deserve feedback. Shame on you!

  • In reply to purelife:

    Furthermore, please elaborate on your statement, "the people who are considered younger". How are people "considered" younger? more importanlty what scale are you basing this insufficient statement on? to imply one is young, I would assume toddler, elementary students and middle school students. Otherwise more proper political statements are used to categorize age such as, teens, young adult, mid 20's. late 20's, etc. In all my life I have not heard anyone respond to the frequently asked question "how oild are you" or "what is your age" and answer with "Iam among the people who are considered younger!" Thank you.

  • In reply to Rukidding:

    RUKIDDING, you are absolutely correct. Nothing is done in person. It is the qualifications on the resume and application that that the applicant obtains his or her position. Additionally, for all those narrow minded slandering individuals who do not know any better...age has nothing to do with it. THe reputation Darden Restaurants have earned heavily rely on the employees and their ability to perform great work. These restaurants owned by Darden are fmaily oriented not to be confused with clubs or bars, who might screen applicants based on looks, for example, Hooters.

  • It is lawsutis similair to this that are based on hatred and stereotypes. We live in the 20th century where debt, foreclosed homes, poverty levels, and hungry children are the hard cold facts of life. Lets move on from racial slandering and discrimination. From what I have read it is the racial card between blacks and whites. I have not read anything about any other cukture in these threads. Before we start making bad calls regarding discrimination there are several significant fac tors to consider first:
    1. Education
    2. Qualifications
    3. Prior work history
    4. Reliabilty
    5. PErsonality etc.
    THese are only a few factors that do not even scratch the surface of multiple significant reasons. let us delve into age (not becasue someone is younger and more hot, but more importantly are the applicants or employees old enought o sell liquor, or do they need a work permit to work b/c he or she is so young). Next, let us look past culture and ethnicity and focus on work ethics. DOes the employee work hard enough and are qulaified to work in another category within the restaurant. Are there available hours for the apllicant or employee to perform this job?
    Does America and the rest of the world not have enough daily problems that as individuals we always use the race card? Or is it that people are just trying to get something for nothing? Or do some of us just have such a great life that the only thing to complain about is why the african american is working in the dish area while the caucasion male is bartending? Hypothetically speaking if Darden is in fact guilty of do9crimination, is it necessary to sue them for 7 billion dollars? That is greed! This is so sad to me becasue we need to stand together, knock down barriers such as racial dicrimination, and unite as one. I read in an earlier thread that it is the managers that hire only "hot People" well again if Darden is guyilty for discriminating then it should be the manger to lose his or her job. It should not be Darden Corporation that should be responsible for these unacceptable and unprofessional behavior, statements, and actions. However, an individual suing would not be able to sue a manager for 7 billion dollars! If the employees are so concerned genuinely tp put a stop to discrimination then they should have attempted to take several steps to diffuse the problemand prevent it from happening again in the future. For excample, point the issue out to the managers boss, if things havent changed then present the problem to another leader. I assure all of you if certain appropriate steps were practiced, action would have been taken, but people are too eager to jump to conclusiuons. Imagine for one second you are the owner of Darden. How would you know all of the details such as age, culture, ethnicity, and sex of employees and the ration of each of thoise factors in each category. Meaning, age, sex, and race of those in dish, and prep, etc? Next thing, people will sue becasue the white guy in dish is working more hours on a Sunday than the Native AMerican female who is working less split shifts on Mondays through the course of six weeks. Absolutley pathetic people! If half of the enrgy used on a law suit was put to more positiv ethings thean this world would be a much better place. Now let me share with anyone who reads this post about an experience I had, while waiting tables one day I had a guest tell me he was going to train me and make me his girl toy, that is harrassment at its finest, but instead of immedialty qnating to sue him for harrassment, I simply served him his food and went about my day. NAother example, I made arrangmenets with a local cable company to hook up service in my home. As a mother of two small girls, and at the time no phone becasue my service was not yet connected, and no vehicle, I allowed a representative emplyed by the cable compnay to come into my home for obvious reasons. WHile he was there he asked me to show him my "tits" and told me how he went out the night before to a strip club etc. He eventually sat down on my couch spread his legs as far as he could (I am certain it was purposely) to expose his gigantic hole in his crotch area and his private man parts were spewing out of the hole exposing no underpants! This is a serious offense and a HUGE lawsuit waiting to happen. I took the followong actions: asked him kindly to leave my home and reported him to the cable comp-any. THat's it! People do not let bad things happen to yourself. People please do not let greed fill your heart! How would you feel id Darden was your loved one? Probably like he or she was sued wrongfully!

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    This is a ridiculous accusation. I have been a Darden employee for 5 years in Atlanta. I work for Longhorn and it is high quality steak, chicken, and fish. I have visited Capital Grille, and although cannot afford it on the regular, but highly enjoyed my food. This talk of discrimination is absurd! People will complain about anything to get a rise (or lawsuit) for ANYTHING! Darden has been the most diverse and accommodating ethnically transparent corporation I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Granted I am not in Chicago, but Atlanta is very similar... This entire blog is absurd. The interview process? Come on people, find a hobby and stop nit picking every detail.

  • It's very good that your experience has been positive. Perhaps you can testify at any hearings.

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    I agree very much with the converse, my Darden restaurant is not discriminatory in the least and I love my job.

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