When Darden Restaurants opened its Orlando Restaurant Support Center (RSC), it was the first time the heavyweight restaurant chain company had a chance to operate its own in-house foodservice.
So the natural question to ask is, why didn't it simply deploy its own array of dining concepts to feed the troops? Darden certainly has sufficient variety among its brands to field a nice starting lineup: Italian favorites (Olive Garden), seafood dishes (Red Lobster), Caribbean casual fare (Bahama Breeze), heavyweight proteins (Longhorn Steakhouse, Capital Grille) and light, healthy choices (Seasons 52).
But that didn't happen. Opting to keep its focus on its own menus and supporting its own restaurants, Darden turned to onsite dining management firm Guckenheimer, which installed a diverse but decidedly non-Darden mix of cuisines.
“Candidly, I was shocked that they would outsource it,” says Guckenheimer Senior Vice President Jack Silk. “It was quite a coup for us. We don't have any cycle menus and all of our menus are written each week for the following week by our onsite teams throughout the country based on what's available and on client requests. I think they appreciated that.”
Still, it must be intimidating to have a client that knows so much about your business, no? Well, no, says Vincent DeVittorio, Guckenheimer's executive chef at the RSC. “Actually, it's a lot easier,” he says. “The last company I worked at had a lot of engineers who didn't really know a lot about the food business, so they didn't see things on the same level we see it. I think it's a lot easier to work in an environment where everybody understands where we're coming from.”