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Darden Restaurant’s John Caron Addresses Marketers

October 18, 2010

By Guest Blogger Luna Newton, CooperKatz

John Caron, Chief Marketing Officer of Darden Restaurants, spoke to marketers this morning on day three of the ANA Annual Conference. With their headquarters located within miles of the Rosen Shingle Creek hotel, Mr. Caron opened with a history of the company and how it began with a small, Floridian restaurant located across from a swamp, literally.

Darden Restaurants currently operates over 1800 restaurants nationwide and has grown to include six different brands, including Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, Capital Grille, Bahama Breeze and Seasons 52.  Since the recession, Mr. Caron has noticed three key dynamics taking place, which he shared with ANA marketers:

  1. The restaurant industry is maturing and sales are slowing, making brand building more important today than ever.
  2. There is increasing competition for food and energy supplies, making cost-effective means of operating a necessity for business viability.
  3. There is a greater demand for responsible behavior, making transparency and accountability crucial to business practices.

Darden restaurants are No. 1 in the seafood and Italian food category, and No. 3 in the casual dining steakhouse brand. Though the recession has negatively impacted many businesses, Mr. Caron believes that the recession gave Darden the unique opportunity to accelerate growth into new markets.  He also thinks that the recession benefits those with aggressive investment philosophies. With significant interest in casual dining brands around the world, Darden plans an international expansion to bring meaningful growth opportunities.

Darden seems to be well-positioned to deliver long-term sales growth. Included in their strategy is a commitment to transparency, choice and innovation, in addition to sustainability practices and finding new ways to support society's health and wellness goals. Darden is sure to continue successfully accomplishing its ongoing mission to nourish and delight everyone they serve.

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