Olive Garden parent Darden boosts hourly pay for restaurant workers

Darden Restaurants 3Q earnings beat expectations

Earnings HQ: FBN’s Ashley Webster breaks down Darden Restaurants’ fiscal third-quarter earnings report.

Darden Restaurants, Inc. is offering its restaurant team members $17 million in bonuses.

This announcement comes straight from the company’s Chairman and CEO Gene Lee, who detailed the payout in Darden’s third quarter results.

The American multi-brand restaurant operator includes popular restaurant chains such as LongHorn Steakhouse, Olive Garden, Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen, Yard House, The Capital Grille, Seasons 52, Bahama Breeze and Eddie V's.

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“First, we are investing approximately $17 million to provide a one-time bonus for our hourly restaurant team members in recognition of their hard work and dedication,” Lee said in a statement issued on Thursday, March 25. “Second, while we are proud that, on average, our hourly restaurant team members earn more than $17 per hour today, starting Monday, every hourly restaurant team member will earn at least $10 per hour, which includes tip income — increasing to $11 an hour in January 2022 and $12 an hour in January 2023.”

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Lee went on to add that Darden’s one-time bonus is meant to help the company “retain the best talent in the industry.”

Darden’s total sales for the third quarter of 2021 was $1.73 billion, according to the company’s reported results.

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Compared to Darden’s third quarter results from last year ($2.35 billion), current total sales are roughly 26.1% lower. However, March 2020 was notably the start of the coronavirus lockdowns in the U.S., which triggered a surge in food delivery and takeout orders.

The incremental raise Darden is offering its workers comes at a time when unions, restaurant and fast food workers have joined the “Fight for $15” — a political movement that is trying to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 per hour.

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TickerSecurityLastChangeChange %
DRIDARDEN RESTAURANTS INC.141.40+7.25+5.40%
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Darden’s top-performing restaurant brand, Olive Garden, made $872 million in the third quarter of 2021, according to the company’s reported results. (iStock)

In February, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour in the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. The provision was swiftly stricken down by the Senate with parliamentary rules.

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Moderate senators who are in Democratic and Independent parties also voted against passing the minimum wage hike, including Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Sen. Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine).

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