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Petition urges Olive Garden to clean up their act

Over 50 organizations have banded together to start the “Good Food Now!” campaign, directed at DRI, to “adopt better labor practices and greener menus” supporting not only the environment, but also farmers, animals, customers, and the staff at their restaurants.

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Better practice organizations banding together

We have reported on Darden Restaurant Inc. in the past, parent company of Olive Garden, which has more than 1,500 casual-dining restaurants around the world, and it’s considered the largest full-service restaurant employer in the United States.

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Over 50 organizations have banded together to start the “Good Food Now!” campaign, directed at DRI, to “adopt better labor practices and greener menus” supporting not only the environment, but also farmers, animals, customers, and the staff at their restaurants.

An historic coalition

According to one manager, never before have environmental, worker justice, animal welfare, and public concern organizations come together under one umbrella to target the restaurant industry. The focus of the campaign is on Olive Garden, even though DRI also owns Bahama Breeze, Longhorn Steakhouse, and a number of other popular restaurants. Olive Garden accounts for the majority of the sales of DRI.

The petition sent to Darden urges the company to support:
• A valued workforce
• Environmental sustainability
• Local economics
• Good nutrition
• Animal welfare

GoodFoodNow demanding local, nutritious and fair

The campaign wants Darden to make a commitment to providing a better experience to its customers by sourcing ingredients locally and at fair prices. To promote animal welfare, the organizations want DRI to source proteins that are certified humane raised and handled and raised without the use of anti-biotics. In addition, DRI is being asked to provide smaller portion sizes, more vegetarian and vegan entrée options, and to improve nutrition through including more fruits and vegetables.

Is it possible for Darden to take action?

The principles which outline the GoodFoodNow campaign are those being used in the LA Unified School District to govern the entities which purchase food for the school district. According to GoodFoodNow supporters, Darden claims to support and value animal welfare, their employees, and their customers, but they don’t demonstrate their commitment to these key issues. The group has requested a meeting with DRI, but to date, Darden has not granted a meeting or acknowledged the issues raised by the coalition.

#GoodFoodNow

Dawn Brotherton is a Staff Writer at The American Genius, and has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Oklahoma. Before earning her degree, she spent over 20 years homeschooling her two daughters, who are now out changing the world. She lives in Oklahoma and loves to golf. She hopes to publish a novel in the future.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Tiffany

    March 25, 2016 at 9:49 pm

    It seems to me that its just someones thought and hope to have restaurants participate in their plan. As i see it , The company shouldnt have to discuss what they do regarding this. I dont blame them for not talking to them.

    • Tiffany

      March 25, 2016 at 9:51 pm

      I personnally think if people want a restaurant running the way they propose , maybe they should start their own restaurant.

  2. Kathy

    July 12, 2016 at 5:34 pm

    Sorry this post got longer than I intended, but I found myself making the points for the group that the group should have been making themselves. This article is too short.

    It’s absolutely correct to approach Darden with the idea that they need to clean up their act. Red Lobster has already been sold. But you can only expect so much from major old chains like the Olive Garden. I doubt if Darden will make all the changes the group is demanding, at least not all at once, or address them at all, since Olive Garden may be sold next. And although vegetarian choices are nice (I’m not one), it sounds whiny to a big chain and there are bigger fish to fry, like the crap that’s in the food itself that needs to go.

    Sourcing locally is great but not always feasible. When you eat at a major chain you get what they can buy to deliver to ALL their locations. But I agree that something organic, like tomato sauce, is reasonable and readily available anywhere. Not speaking for everyone, but also many people are aware of the toxic ingredients in our food these days. And I’ve found that different regions of the US have more awareness than others.

    I use to love Olive Garden and Red Lobster until about six years ago when it seemed the quality was going down hill. But I also discovered you can look up the food ingredients and allergens online. I found there is so much Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), preservatives, and other chemicals in the food. These two chains, and especially fast food, are riddled with MSG! No wonder the food tastes good (sort of), that’s what MSG does. Hey, restaurant owners, ever hear of actual real spices! I cook very simply at home, and it tastes really good, and with no chemicals and MSG.

    MSG has an effect on the brain that makes the food taste good. It also has an effect of making you start to crave that food. It also can cause diabetes, high blood pressure, weight gain, adrenal gland malfunction, and even seizures (info from Global Healing Center). Look around at people who frequently eat at these places. Their health and quality of life goes down hill. So was my families until I made changes and now cook at home everyday.

    But even with all the MSG you still can’t hide microwaved, frozen, processed reheated food. That’s like putting an air freshener in a garbage can!

    I remember going into a grocery store with some friends in about 1982, and one of the guys bought a spice. He said this makes food taste really good. The label said Monosodium Glutamate. They actually use to sell it right along with all the other spices! It’s funny how it’s not sold anymore, but yet they allow restaurants to put in abundance in their food! MSG and all it’s forms need to be banned, right along with High Fructose Corn Syrup. But I digress.

    Another thing the restaurants need to get smart about is the massive use of GMO oils in the use and process of their food. These days people are really concerned about that, even other countries. I have made phone calls to ask what kind of oil is used to fry food. The most frequent answer I get is Soy. That’s because of a new-fangled GMO one that makes machines it’s used in easier to clean, among other reasons. And when I ask if it’s Non-GMO, they say “it doesn’t say on the label.” If it doesn’t say, then it is GMO. For those of you who aren’t aware of GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) food, please do the research. It’s too much of an overreach to explain it here.

    On some points, the group is making valid concerns. On other points they may be that businesses like Olive Garden can’t make huge changes overnight, so they should stick to the most important priorities first, like ditch the chemicals and MSG, and hormone free meat. That’s a huge start. They might get more notice that way.

    Panera Bread is slowly cleaning up it’s food item by item, and to my surprise not doing a bad job. So I sent them an email thanking them for that, but then also pointed out that they should switch to Non-GMO wheat flour. I said since many people are concerned about GMOs that they would be really noticed for that, especially since they are Panera BREAD, bread being their main identifier! Sure, I’d like organic wheat while they’re at it, but too much demand might result in nothing at all, so I’ll except Non-GMO for now.

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Business News

Leadership versus management: What’s the difference?

(Business News) The two terms, leadership and management, are often used interchangeably, but there are substantial differences; let’s explore them.

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leadership Startups meeting led by Black woman.

Some people use the terms “leader” and “manager” interchangeably, and while there is nothing inherently wrong with this, there is still a debate regarding their similarities or differences.

Is it merely a matter of preference, or are there cut and dry differences that define each term?

Ronald E. Riggio, professor of leadership and organizational psychology at Claremont McKenna College, described what he felt to be the difference between the terms, noting the commonality in the distinction of “leadership” versus “management” was that leaders tend to engage in the “higher” functions of running an organization, while managers handle the more mundane tasks.

However, Riggio believes it is only a matter of semantics because successful and effective leaders and managers must do the same things. They must set the standard for followers and the organization, be willing to motivate and encourage, develop good working relationships with followers, be a positive role model, and motivate their team to achieve goals.

He states that there is a history explaining the difference between the two terms: business schools and “management” departments adopted the term “manager” because the prevailing view was that managers were in charge.

They were still seen as “professional workers with critical roles and responsibilities to help the organization succeed, but leadership was mostly not in the everyday vocabulary of management scholars.”

Leadership on the other hand, derived from organizational psychologists and sociologists who were interested in the various roles across all types of groups.

So, “leader” became the term to define someone who played a key role in “group decision making and setting direction and tone for the group. For psychologists, manager was a profession, not a key role in a group.”

When their research began to merge with business school settings, they brought the term “leadership” with them, but the terms continued to be used to mean different things.

The short answer, according to Riggio is no, not really; simply because leaders and managers need the same skills to be productive and respected.

This editorial was first published here in June of 2014.

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Does Raising Cane’s have the secret to combatting restaurant labor shortages?

(NEWS) Fried Chicken Franchise, Raising Cane’s, has turned to an unusual source of front-line employees during the labor shortage- Their executives!

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White paper sign with black text reading "Help Wanted."

I wouldn’t call myself a fried chicken aficionado or anything, but since chains are designed to blow up everywhere, I have experienced Raising Cane’s.

I’m pretty sure the Cane’s sauce is just barbecue mixed with ranch, but hey, when you’ve got a good idea, keep with it.

In the further pursuit of good ideas, the company has resorted to an intriguing method of boosting staff in a world where the lowest paid among us are still steadily dying of Covid, and/or choosing to peace out of jobs that they don’t find worth the infection risk.

Via Nation Restaurant News: “This is obviously a very tough time, so it was a joint idea of everybody volunteering together to go out there and be recruiters, fry cooks and cashiers —whatever it takes,” said AJ Kumaran, co-CEO and chief operating officer for the Baton Rouge, La.-based quick-service company, from a restaurant in Las Vegas, where he had deployed himself.”

The goal of this volunteer mission, which involves 250 of the 500 executives deployed working directly in service roles, is to bolster locations until 10,000 new hires can be made in both existing locations and locations planned to open.

It’s obvious that this is a bandaid move – execs exist for good reason, and in terms of sheer numbers (not to mention location and salary changes), this is hardly tenable long-term. But I can say this as someone who’s gone from retail to office, and back (and then forth…and then back again) several times – if this doesn’t keep everyone at the corporate level humble, and much more mindful of employees’ needs, nothing will.

The fast-food world is notorious for wonky schedules only going up a day before the week begins, broken promises on hours (both over and under), horrendous pay, and little to no defense of employee dignity in the face of customers with rank dispositions. With the wave of strikes (Nabisco, John Deere, IATSE) making the news, and lack of hazard pay/brutal physical attacks over mask mandates still very fresh in workers’ minds, smart companies are hipping themselves to the fact that “low level” employee acquisition and retention needs to be much more than the ‘work here or starve’ tactics that have served since the beginning of decades of wage stagnation. The best way for that fact to stay front-of-mind is to go out and live the truths behind it.

In Raising Cane’s case, the company also announced that they’re upping wages at all locations — to the tune of an actually not totally insulting $2 per hour, resulting in a starting wage of $15 and a managerial wage of $18.

Ideally, paying people more to cook, clean, and customer service all in one job will actually attract people back to fast food work. Seriously consider the fact that the people cleaning fast-food toilets are the same people making the food that goes into your mouth. The additional fact is that it’s better for everyone’s health when they’re paid enough to care about what they’re doing and stay healthy themselves.

Of course, one does also need to consider how much inflation has affected the price of goods and housing since the ‘fight for $15’ began almost a decade ago in 2012. Now, raising wages closer to the end point of multiple goods still might not be enough!

AJ Kumaran continued, “The chicken prices are through the roof. Logistics are very hard. Shipping is difficult. Simple things cups and paper napkins — everything is in shortage right now. Some are overseas suppliers and others domestic suppliers. Just in poultry alone, we have taken significant inflation.”

That’s global disruption for ya.

It remains to be seen whether this plucky move can save Raising Cane’s dark meat, but I’m very pro regardless. Send more top-earning employees into the trenches! No more executives with 0 knowledge of how the sausage sandwich gets made.

No more leading from behind.

Why not? What are ya? Chicken?

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Unify your remote team with these important conversations

(BUSINESS NEWS) More than a happy hour, consider having these poignant conversations to bring your remote team together like never before.

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Woman working in office with remote team

Cultivating a team dynamic is difficult enough without everyone’s Zoom feed freezing halfway through “happy” hour. You may not be able to bond over margaritas these days, but there are a few conversations you can have to make your team feel more supported—and more comfortable with communicating.

According to Forbes, the first conversation to have pertains to individual productivity. Ask your employees, quite simply, what their productivity indicators are. Since you can’t rely on popping into the office to see who is working on a project and who is beating their Snake score, knowing how your employees quantify productivity is the next-best thing. This may lead to a conversation about what you want to see in return, which is always helpful for your employees to know.

Another thing to discuss with your employees regards communication. Determining which avenues of communication are appropriate, which ones should be reserved for emergencies, and which ones are completely off the table is key. For example, you might find that most employees are comfortable texting each other while you prefer Slack or email updates. Setting that boundary ahead of time and making it “office” policy will help prevent strain down the road.

Finally, checking in with your employees about their expectations is also important. If you can discuss the sticky issue of who deals with what, whose job responsibilities overlap, and what each person is predominantly responsible for, you’ll negate a lot of stress later. Knowing exactly which of your employees specialize in specific areas is good for you, and it’s good for the team as a whole.

With these 3 discussions out of the way, you can turn your focus to more nebulous concepts, the first of which pertains to hiring. Loop your employees in and ask them how they would hire new talent during this time; what aspects would they look for, and how would they discern between candidates without being able to meet in-person? It may seem like a trivial conversation, but having it will serve to unify further your team—so it’s worth your time.

The last crucial conversation, per Forbes, is simple: Ask your employees what they would prioritize if they became CEOs tomorrow. There’s a lot of latitude for goofy responses here, but you’ll hear some really valuable—and potentially gut-wrenching—feedback you wouldn’t usually receive. It never hurts to know what your staff prioritize as idealists.

Unifying your staff can be difficult, but if you start with these conversations, you’ll be well on your way to a strong team during these trying times.

This story was first published in November 2020.

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