Investing in Our Team Members

March 25, 2021 by Gene Lee, Chairman & CEO

It is hard to believe that it has been a year since the COVID-19 pandemic began to significantly impact our business. The strategy we developed six years ago — focused on executing our Back-to-Basics operating philosophy and strengthening our four competitive advantages — has provided a strong foundation to help us navigate this period of unprecedented change and uncertainty. During this time, our results-oriented culture has played an outsized role in helping ensure not only our survival, but our ability to emerge stronger. And that is why we have continued to invest in supporting you this past year.

Investing In Our Greatest Competitive Advantage

We know our team members are our greatest competitive advantage. Since March 2020, we have invested more than $200 million in programs benefiting team members such as Paid Sick Leave, COVID-19 Emergency Pay, $10/day additional pay to help cover transportation and other costs, as well as covering benefits deductions for team members who were furloughed when dining rooms were closed. These investments also include our recent decision to provide up to four hours of paid time off (PTO) to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Today, I am proud to announce two new hourly restaurant team member investments. First, we are investing approximately $17 million to provide a one-time bonus for nearly 90,000 hourly restaurant team members in recognition of your hard work and dedication. Eligible team members must have worked a minimum of 130 hours during the third quarter (Nov. 30, 2020-Feb. 28, 2021) and bonus amounts will range from $100-$300 depending on average weekly hours over the 13-week period. The payout details are below, and the bonus will be paid on April 2.

Hourly Restaurant Team Member One-Time Bonus Pay
Average Weekly Hours Bonus Amount
10-19 hours $100
20-29 hours $200
30+ hours $300

Second, continuing to attract and retain the best talent in the industry will be critical to our success. And while we are proud that, on average, our hourly restaurant team members earn more than $17 per hour today, I am excited to share that beginning Monday, March 29, every hourly restaurant team member will earn at least $10 per hour, which includes tip income.  Additionally, we are committed to increasing this to $11 an hour in January 2022 and $12 an hour in January 2023.

These investments are the right thing to do to take care of our team members, and we will continue to look for ways to strengthen our industry-leading employment proposition.

Reaffirming Our Commitment to Inclusion & Diversity

I want to take this opportunity acknowledge the pain and anxiety our Asian American and Pacific Islander team members are experiencing. The animosity and violence targeting their community, including the tragic shootings in Atlanta last week, is wrong and unacceptable. There is no place for hatred in our society or at Darden.

I am proud that our company was founded on the belief that everyone is welcome in our restaurants. In the wake of racial injustice, we have shown that Darden is a place that includes everyone, supports everyone and protects everyone. We must continue to be an ally for each other. If we hold true to these values and are willing to learn and grow, we all can help create racial equality in this country starting within the walls of our restaurants and our support center.

Confidently Looking Ahead

Finally, while the pandemic is not over, I am encouraged by the pace of vaccinations we are seeing across the country, including team members who are taking advantage of our PTO offer to get vaccinated. Each week, access is becoming more widely available, and I encourage you to strongly consider getting vaccinated. The vaccine is a critical tool in helping end the pandemic and welcoming more guests and team members back into our restaurants.

As we continue to increase capacity, it is more important than ever to focus on the basics of running great restaurants. Ensuring we deliver great food and excellent service in a welcoming atmosphere will be key to our continued success and our ability to grow share.

After all we have been through, our winning strategy, combined with your resilience and passion, has allowed Darden and our brands to emerge stronger. On behalf of the management team, I thank you for your commitment to delivering exceptional guest experiences in our dining rooms and through curbside ToGo. You are the heart and soul of our company, and we are extremely grateful to you.