News Release Details

First Lady Michelle Obama Praises Darden Restaurants' Plans to Reduce Calorie, Sodium Footprint

September 15, 2011

The Nation's Leading Restaurant Brands Debut Plans to Offer Greater Choice and Variety

WASHINGTON, Sept. 15, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Darden Restaurants, the world's largest full-service restaurant company, whose brands include Red Lobster, Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and Bahama Breeze, today announced the most comprehensive health and wellness commitment in the restaurant industry to date. Darden has committed to reduce its calorie and sodium footprints and to provide greater choice and variety on its children's menus.

The company was joined at an Olive Garden restaurant in Hyattsville, Maryland, by First Lady Michelle Obama and the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) to announce its commitment.

"As a leader in culinary innovation, we pride ourselves on making good food better, and on finding new ways to nourish and delight everyone we serve," said Drew Madsen, President and Chief Operating Officer of Darden Restaurants. "Today we are taking a new step forward by creating a comprehensive health and wellness commitment, while preserving our commitment to offer our guests the delicious food they have come to know and love from their favorite Darden restaurants."

"The First Lady continues to lead the growing national efforts to make healthy food options more available and accessible, and we're pleased to collaborate with her and the Partnership for a Healthier America on this commitment," Madsen concluded.

The Darden initiative will:

  • Reduce its overall calorie footprint
    • Much like a carbon footprint, Darden is looking at its calorie footprint as a measurement of total impact.
    • Across the entire Darden portfolio of brands, the company is working toward a 10 percent reduction of calories over five years and a 20 percent reduction of calories over 10 years.
    • Darden will look closely at reformulating, resizing and removing certain items, and introducing new calorie-conscious, flavorful choices.

  • Reduce sodium in its offerings by 10 percent over the next five years and 20 percent over the next 10 years
    • Darden will work in partnership with its suppliers to secure this commitment in a "transition-over-time" approach that aligns with national nutrition policy and allows for the evolution of consumer taste preferences as well as needed market innovations.
    • The company will focus these efforts on the items where it has the greatest opportunity to make a difference based on current sodium levels.
  • Ensure its children's menus provide choices that appeal to parents and kids alike
    • Darden is establishing specific nutrition standards to guide the development of its children's meals to simplify parents' search for healthier options that their children enjoy.
    • Fruits or vegetables will become the default side dish options.
    • An 8 oz. serving of 1-percent milk is now the default beverage with free refills.

This initiative builds on the success of the First Lady's "Let's Move!" campaign to offer healthier options for families dining out and is consistent with Darden's long history of innovation to provide its guests with the choice and variety they seek and an exceptional dining experience. Some of the changes have already been made to children's menus available in restaurants today, including the introduction of six new children's meals that meet nutrition standards consistent with USDA Dietary Guidelines.

"As a company in constant anticipation of our guests' changing needs, this is a great opportunity for Darden to strengthen our relationships with our guests," said Clarence Otis, Chairman and CEO of Darden Restaurants. "Our commitment recognizes that they deserve greater choice and variety, and by putting our guests' desires first, we're putting our best foot forward as a company. And we're very proud of that."

Darden worked with PHA, the nonprofit organization that works with the First Lady on her "Let's Move!" initiative to reduce childhood obesity, as it developed its commitment and will collaborate with PHA as it works toward its goals.

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About Darden
Darden Restaurants, Inc., (NYSE: DRI), the world's largest full-service restaurant company, owns and operates more than 1,900 restaurants that generate more than $7.5 billion in annual sales. Headquartered in Orlando, and employing approximately 180,000 people, Darden is recognized for a culture that rewards caring for and responding to people. In 2011, Darden became the first full-service restaurant company ever to be named to the FORTUNE "100 Best Companies to Work For" list. Our restaurant brands — Red Lobster, Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, The Capital Grille, Bahama Breeze and Seasons 52 — reflect the rich diversity of those who dine with us. Our brands are built on deep insights into what our guests want. For more information, please visit

SOURCE Darden Restaurants, Inc.

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