Client Projects: Darden Restaurants

Kristine Young MEM’09 Sustainability Manager, Darden Restaurants

Darden is a restaurant company – featuring a unique portfolio of businesses that include Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52, The Capital Grille, Eddie V’s and Yard House. A core part of sustainability at Darden is a commitment to reducing the environmental impact of our physical footprint – including energy efficiency, water conservation and food waste reduction at our restaurants.

Darden has made strong progress toward its ambitious goal to reduce per-restaurant energy and water use and work toward sending zero waste to landfills over time. Since organic material is the largest component of its restaurants’ waste stream, reducing it must be a key part of any strategy to get to zero waste.

Kristine Young, a 2009 Nicholas Master of Environmental Management graduate, arranged for a team of MEM students in Deb Gallagher’s Sustainable Business Strategy course to analyze current organic recycling programs and develop a business case for expanding in new communities.

The Nicholas student team assessed the sustainability and business impacts of Darden’s organics recycling program in Massachusetts, where mandatory organic waste diversion from landfills went into effect in 2014, and provided comparative analysis for diverting organic material at other restaurant sites. The students presented their findings to Darden, who are using the analysis to inform future organic recycling efforts.

“Behind every good sustainability effort is a lot of data – the analytics provided by the Duke team were pivotal to understanding process innovations by local governments in managing the rising community-wide challenge around food waste. Every day we work hard to carefully prepare and serve meals our guests enjoy eating, and we want to focus on great food at the table and not let it be wasted.” -Kristine Young MEM’09 Sustainability Manager, Darden Restaurants