ORLANDO, Fla. - Darden Restaurants announced that it has begun a system-wide sustainable restaurant design initiative involving the use of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards in its restaurant design process for all new restaurants and, where feasible, restaurant remodels. The company said the initiative is part of its broader sustainability efforts aimed at limiting business impact on the environment while also enhancing the operational efficiency of its restaurants.

Darden’s three largest brands - Red Lobster, Olive Garden, and LongHorn Steakhouse - are designing eight restaurants to achieve LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The company plans to apply lessons learned from those eight restaurants to new restaurants and remodels across its portfolio in the future. The new Olive Garden in Jonesboro, Ark., is the first of the eight restaurants the company is designing to meet LEED standards. One more Olive Garden and two Red Lobsters are scheduled to open in 2010, followed by one Olive Garden, two Red Lobsters, and one LongHorn Steakhouse in 2011.

“Our goal with this initiative is to utilize each of the eight restaurants as a learning lab,” said Suk Singh, senior vice president of development for Darden. “While we may not seek LEED certification for every restaurant we build or remodel, we can make a positive impact by learning from the eight restaurants where we are seeking LEED certification and applying best practices across our entire portfolio.

“Every restaurant we build represents a 30-year investment, so we want to build them to last,” Singh continued. “But more importantly, we want to build them in a sustainable manner from both a construction standpoint and an operational one.”

At the new Olive Garden in Jonesboro, one of the energy efficient features is the use of reclaimed heat. To supplement the heating of hot water in the kitchen, heat expelled from the condensing units of the HVAC system and the freezer/cooler condensing units is reclaimed and used to heat water.

“Darden is actively committed to sustainability,” said Ian Olson, director of sustainability for the company. “Our business relies on a number of natural resources, and we want to be the best stewards of those resources that we can be. By doing so, we can ensure the long-term success of our business while protecting and enhancing the communities where we do business.”

Darden recently opened its new corporate headquarters facility in Orlando which is on track to earn LEED Gold certification from the USGBC. It’s said to be the largest LEED Gold new construction project in the state of Florida.

For more information, visit www.darden.com.

Publication date:04/05/2010