Olive Garden parent Darden boosts hourly pay for restaurant workers

Additional $17 million in bonuses for workers at all Darden brands, including LongHorn Steakhouse, Capital Grille, Bahama Breeze and more"

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

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.

The $17 million investment will be paid out to Darden's restaurant workforce of nearly 90,000, a spokesperson for the brand clarified for FOX Business.

In addition to bonues, Darden is issuing an hourly pay raise to its restaurant staff.

“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,” Lee's statement reads. 

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Lee went on to add that Darden’s one-time bonus and pay raise are 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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Ticker Security Last Change Change %
DRI DARDEN RESTAURANTS, INC. 149.15 -1.43 -0.95%

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).