Darden Restaurants CEO wins 2018 Gold Plate award

Gene Lee, chief executive of Olive Garden and The Capital Grille parent company Darden Restaurants, was named the 2018 foodservice operator of the year by the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association at a gala event on Saturday night.

Lee accepted the honor, known as the Gold Plate, with a request the operators and suppliers in the audience never forget the opportunities they provide young people who aren’t interested in a conventional career or haven’t figured out what to do with their lives.

He cited himself as an example, mentioning that he started as a busboy. “I was a lost young person until the industry took me in,” he said. “How misunderstood we are as an industry because we can’t tell our story.”

He paid tribute to Darden’s COO and longtime colleague Dave George for helping to forge Darden’s turnaround and growth. “I’m up here because of Dave George,” he said.

Lee was chosen for the Gold Plate from a field of eight operators who’d been selected earlier as the year’s best leaders within their respective market segments. Lee had won that preliminary honor, the Silver Plate, in the full-service chain category.

The Silver Plate winners included operators in four segments of noncommercial foodservice: Dennis Pierce, executive director of dining services at University of Connecticut; Jim McGrody, culinary director of UNC Rex Healthcare; Michiel Bakker, director of Google Food; and Ken Yant, director of the school nutrition program at Gwinnett Public Schools.

Other Silver Plate recipients included Paul Brown, CEO of Arby’s and Buffalo Wild Wings parent Inspire Brands; Craig Huse, co-owner of the St. Elmo’s steakhouse in Indiana; Susan Terry, VP of culinary and F&B operations for Marcus Hotels; and Voni Woods, experience officer at Giant Eagle supermarkets.

The Silver Plate winners, along with past recipients, were honored at a banquet during the National Restaurant Association’s annual convention in Chicago, during which the Gold Plate winner was revealed. 

The Silver and Gold Plate winners were chosen by a jury of past winners, industry VIPs and the editors of business-to-business publications serving the foodservice industry. A representative of Restaurant Business and FoodService Director was included in the jury. 

More From FoodService Director

Managing Your Business
staffing

In October, the unemployment rate hit its lowest point since the Vietnam War, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And it’s a number that is significantly affecting foodservice hiring.

Not only are directors and chefs having a tough time filling job s but they also can’t find enough skilled workers to execute the menu and provide good customer service. As operators continue to grapple with this problem, some are finding the solution lies in extensive cross-training.

Multitasking to stretch staff

“Every staff member is trained to multitask,” says Kory Samuels,...

Industry News & Opinion
voting

Residents of Missouri and Arkansas voted on Tuesday to increase their state’s minimum wage to $12 and $11, respectively.

The wage hikes approved for the two states will be phased into place over a period of years.

In Missouri, where the minimum is currently $7.85 an hour, foodservice operators and other employers will be required to pay a minimum of $8.60 as of Jan. 1, $9.45 in 2020, $10.30 in 2021, $11.15 in 2022 and $12 in 2023.

Arkansas’ pay floor will rise to $11 by 2021. The legal minimum wage will rise to $9.25 an hour on Jan. 1, $10 a year later and $11 the...

Menu Development
fresh fruit

More than a third of college students (39%) say they have a few snacks between meals, according to Technomic’s 2017 College & University Consumer Trend Report , powered by Ignite. While fresh fruit is the snack of choice for college kids, operators can also satisfy cravings with more standard snacking fare such as chips. Here are the most preferred snacks for college students.

!function(e,t,n,s){var i="InfogramEmbeds",o=e...
Menu Development
coffee cake

Step into any of Florida State University’s three dining halls on a Friday and you’ll be met with a line that is often 30 to 40 guests deep. Since before the current dining team can remember, Honey Fried Chicken Fridays have been a popular weekly routine for Florida State students, as well as the surrounding Tallahassee community.

“You’ve got to get there early, or you’ve got to be patient because it’s that popular,” says Scott Bryan, public relations specialist for Seminole Dining.

While FSU’s famous honey fried chicken has been on the menu for years, chefs recently...

FSD Resources

Code for Asynchronous jQuery Munchkin Tracking Code