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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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This web platform for cannabis is blowing up online distribution

(BUSINESS NEWS) Dutchie, a website platform for cannabis companies, just octupled in value. Here’s what that means for the online growth of cannabis distribution.

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A small jar of cannabis on a desk with notebooks, sold online in a nicely made jar.

The cannabis industry has, for the most part, blossomed in the past few years, managing to hit only a few major snags along the way. One of those snags is the issue of payment processing, an issue compounded by predominantly cash-only transactions. Dutchie, a Bend, Oregon company, has helped mitigate that issue—and it just raised a ton of money.

Technically, Dutchie is a jack-of-all-trades service that creates and hosts websites for dispensaries, tracks product, processes orders, keeps stock of revenue, and so much more. While it was valued at around $200 million as recently as summer of 2020, a round of series C funding currently puts the company at around $1.7 billion—approximately 8 times its worth a mere 8 months ago.

There are a few reasons behind Dutchie’s newfound momentum. For starters, the pandemic made cannabis products a lot more accessible—and desirable—in states in which the sale of cannabis is legal. The ensuing surge of customers and demand certainly didn’t hurt the platform, especially given that Dutchie is largely responsible for keeping things on track during some of the more chaotic months for dispensaries.

Several states in which the sale of cannabis was illegal also voted to legalize recreational use, giving Dutchie even more stomping ground than they had prior to the lockdown.

Dutchie also recently took on 2 separate companies and their associated employees, effectively doubling their current staff. The companies are Greenbits—a resource planning group—and Leaflogix, which is a point-of-sale platform. With these two additions to their compendium, Dutchie can operate as even more of an all-in-one suite, which absolutely contributes to its value as a company.

Ross Lipson, who is Dutchie’s co-founder and current CEO, is fairly dismissive of investment opportunities for the public at the moment, saying he instead prefers to stay “focused with what’s on our plate” for the time being. However, he also appears open to the possibility of going public via an acquisition company.

“We look at how this decision brings value to the dispensary and the customer,” says Lipson. “If it brings value, we’d embark on that decision.”

For now, Dutchie remains the ipso facto king of cannabis distribution and sales—and they don’t show any plans to slow down any time soon.

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Ford adopts flexible working from home schedule for over 30k employees

(BUSINESS NEWS) Ford Motor Co. is allowing employees to continue working from home even after the pandemic winds down. Is this the beginning of a trend for auto companies?

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Woman in car working on engineering now allowed a flexible schedule for working from home.

The pandemic has greatly transformed our lives. For the most part, learning is being conducted online. At one point, interacting with others was pretty much non-existent. Working in the office shifted significantly to working remotely, and it seems like working from home might not go away anytime soon.

As things slowly get back to a new “normal”, will things change again? Well, one thing is sure. Working from home will be a permanent thing for some people as more companies opt to continue letting people work remotely.

And, the most recent company on the list to do this is Ford Motor Co. Even after the pandemic winds down, Ford will allow more than 30,000 employees already working from home to continue doing so.

Last week, the automaker giant announced its “flexible hybrid model” schedule to its staff. The new schedule is set to start in the summer, and employees can choose to work remotely and come into the office for tasks that require face-to-face collaborations, such as meetings and group projects.

How much time an employee spends in the office will depend on their responsibilities, and flexible remote hours will need to be approved by an employee’s manager.

“The nature of work drives whether or not you can adopt this model. There are certain jobs that are place-dependent — you need to be in the physical space to do the job,” David Dubensky, chairman and chief executive of Ford Land, told the Washington Post. “Having the flexibility to choose how you work is pretty powerful. … It’s up to the employee to have dialogue and discussion with their people leader to determine what works best.”

Ford’s decision to implement a remote-office work model has to do in part with an employee survey conducted in June 2020. Results from the survey showed that 95% of employees wanted a hybrid schedule. Some employees even reported feeling more productive when working from home.

Ford is the first auto company to allow employees to work from home indefinitely, but it might not be the only one. According to the Post, Toyota and General Motors are looking at flexible options of their own.

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Business News

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.

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