Darden Restaurants announced new assignments for the leaders of Red Lobster and Olive Garden, its two largest brands. The moves, which are part of a rotation of leadership in four senior positions in the company, demonstrate the benefits of Darden's long-term commitment to developing talent and its ability to leverage its leaders' breadth to provide key roles with new energy and insight.

The following leadership appointments will take effect early in the new fiscal year which begins May 30, 2011:

After seven years as president of Red Lobster, Kim Lopdrup will become SVP of business development overseeing Darden's long range growth plans. Under Lopdrup's leadership, Red Lobster has been successfully positioned for a new era of growth, the company said in a statement.

After more than six years as president of Olive Garden, Dave Pickens will become president of Red Lobster. Pickens has successfully accelerated new unit growth at Olive Garden and sustained competitively superior same-restaurant excellence over an extended period, fueling strongly profitable market share growth. He now returns to Red Lobster, where he began his career 38 years ago.
John Caron, currently Darden's SVP and chief marketing officer, will become president of Olive Garden. Caron, who contributed to Olive Garden's growth as its EVP of marketing for six years, will return to lead the brand as it continues to extend its strong leadership position in casual dining.
JJ Buettgen, currently Darden's SVP of business development, will become Darden's SVP and chief marketing officer. Buettgen, who at one time led marketing at Olive Garden, worked closely with John Caron in establishing the mission, structure and functional responsibilities of the chief marketing officer role.

Commenting on the moves, Darden's Chairman and CEO Clarence Otis said: "As we look to the future and work to build on Darden's long track record of competitively superior performance, we have a deep talent bench that can be leveraged to bring fresh perspectives to some of our most important leadership positions. The ability to reach across our business for talented and experienced professionals to lead us into the next phase of our growth reflects our consistent investment over many years in attracting, developing and nurturing outstanding individuals with a diverse array of skills."
Commenting on the contribution each of these leaders has made to the success of the company to date,  Otis noted that, "Kim, Dave, John and JJ have each made a tremendous contribution in their current roles and we're delighted they've agreed to take on these new responsibilities."
Darden President and COO, Drew Madsen noted: "Our brands will benefit greatly from these changes. I am excited about the opportunity to leverage these talented individuals in new ways that can take our business to the next level. They are proven leaders who have directly contributed to our industry leading financial results over the past several years. Just as importantly, they also live out Darden's core values every day and help create a culture where our employees feel valued and motivated to deliver industry-leading performance."


Source: Darden Restaurants