Darden announced Monday that Dave George is assuming the newly created role of executive vice president and chief operating officer. George was named president of Olive Garden in 2013 and executive vice president of Darden in 2016.
“Dave is a seasoned and trusted leader who consistently delivers strong results. As we continue to simplify our operations across all brands, he is uniquely qualified to drive strategic prioritization and accountability, with a laser-focus on operational excellence,” Darden CEO Gene Lee said in a statement.
As before, George will oversee Olive Garden, Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52, and international franchising. He’s adding Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen, Darden’s most recent acquisition, to his duties. Darden completed its $780 million purchase of Cheddar’s April 24.
George was named president of LongHorn Steakhouse in 2007. Before that, he was senior vice president of operations for the chain from 2001–2003 and vice president of operations for The Capital Grille from 2000–2001.
Additionally, Darden announced that Dan Kiernan was named president of Olive Garden, effective immediately. He joined the brand as a manager in training in 1992 and worked his way up from general manager to director of operations to senior vice president of operations. Kiernan was named executive vice president of operations in 2011 and is credited with playing an integral role in Olive Garden’s improved performance in recent quarters.
“Dan is a great restaurant operator. His ability to make the complex simple, motivate more than 90,000 team members and lead teams dedicated to delivering memorable guest experiences makes him the perfect leader for Olive Garden,” George said in a statement.
“I am excited that Dave has accepted this new challenge that will broaden his influence across the organization and ensure a smooth and effective transition at Olive Garden. I am confident that under Dave and Dan’s leadership, Olive Garden will continue to deliver outstanding food and service to our guests,” Lee added.
Darden’s total sales increased 14.6 percent, year-over-year, to $1.88 billion in the second quarter.
Overall same-store sales from its seven brands (not counting recently purchased Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen) rose 3.1 percent. Same-store sales increased 3.8 percent at 500-unit LongHorn, marking the 19th consecutive quarter of same-store sales growth. They were up 3 percent at Olive Garden, giving the 849-unit chain its 13th straight quarter with positive comps. The Capital Grille reported 3.8 percent same-store sales growth. Eddie V’s comps grew 6.8 percent; Yard House reported a 2 percent increase; and Bahama Breeze’s same-store sales were up 2.5 percent. Seasons 52 had a 0.5 percent decline. Sales declined 2 percent at Cheddar’s, which has spent just two quarters under Darden’s umbrella and is still being integrated across the system, the company said in December.