Darden Restaurants (Orlando) is implementing a system-wide sustainable restaurant design initiative using LEED standards in its restaurant design process for all new restaurants and some restaurant remodels. The restaurant operator’s three largest brands – Red Lobster, Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse – are involved in the pilot program, with plans for eight restaurants to achieve LEED certification. The lessons from those eight restaurants will be applied to future new restaurants and remodels across the company’s portfolio.
An Olive Garden in Jonesboro, Ark., which opened last month, is the first unit to display the LEED design and features recycled building materials; more windows for increased use of natural light; energy-efficient equipment and fixtures; new LED light bulbs; and a heat reclamation system that uses heat expelled from the HVAC and the freezer/cooler condensing units to heat water for the kitchen.
Following the Jonesboro location, an additional Olive Garden and two Red Lobsters are scheduled to open in 2010 using LEED, 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," says Suk Singh, senior vp, 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.”
The company says each restaurant it builds represents a 30-year investment. “So we want to build them in a sustainable manner from both a construction standpoint and an operational one," says Singh.
Darden recently opened its new corporate headquarters facility in Orlando, which is on track to earn LEED gold certification. It owns and operates 1800 restaurants under the Red Lobster, Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, The Capital Grille, Bahama Breeze and Seasons 52 banners.