Foodservice Equipment Reports

Leadership Changes, Expansion At Darden

Drew Madsen, who led Darden Restaurants to a 71% increase in store counts and a nearly 80% rise in annual revenues, announced his retirement as president/COO late last month. Gene Lee, president of Darden's Specialty Restaurant Group, will succeed Madsen at the Orlando, Fla., company.

Madsen joined Darden in 1998 as exec. v.p.-marketing at Olive Garden; he assumed the presidency in 2004 and oversaw Darden’s expansion to 2,155 restaurants, with annual revenues growing to $8.6 billion. Its brands also include Red Lobster, LongHorn Steakhouse, Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52, The Capital Grille, Eddie V's and Yard House.

Lee joined Darden in 2007 following the acquisition of Rare Hospitality, where he spent six years as president/COO. Former Red Lobster president Kim Lopdrup, who had been leading Darden’s new business development initiatives, will take the reins of the Specialty Restaurant Group.

Lopdrup, in his previous post, just announced Darden’s new expansion plans in Southeast Asia. The company has signed an agreement with regional café chain operator Secret Recipe to develop the Red Lobster, Olive Garden and LongHorn brands in Malaysia. The 13-unit development deal includes the option for additional brands and locations in the future. 

Darden has similar area development agreements in the Middle East and Latin America. It currently franchises 44 units to local operators in seven countries, including 30 Red Lobsters, six Olive Gardens, seven LongHorns and one Capital Grille.

Secret Recipe has 300 Secret Recipe Cakes & Cafe units in 10 countries.