It’s the competitive advantages that boost brand loyalty at Darden Restaurants−which owns several casual dining restaurant chains including: Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52, Eddie V’s Prime Seafood, The Capital Grille, and Yard House.

Darden Restaurants CEO Gene Lee was upbeat about the company’s third-quarter performance driven by its commitment to operational excellence that sparked all-time high customer satisfaction scores.

“Our success in our ability to continue fulfilling our mission is due to our competitive advantages, our back to basics operating philosophy and our portfolio of differentiated brands,” Lee said. “We believe our four competitive advantages give our brands an edge in the marketplace by enabling us to drive sales growth and expanding margins and they are leveraging our significant scale to create cost advantages, using our extensive data and insights to better understand our guest and effectively communicate with them, ensuring our brand systematically goes through our rigorous strategic planning process and cultivating our results-oriented people culture to create a team that has a passion to serve and a desire to win.”

This operating philosophy, Lee noted, “is the driving force behind the way our branch teams lead their restaurants. Though simple, this philosophy is powerful because it demands that we remain incredibly focused on driving strong operating fundamentals and that means laser-focused on culinary innovation and execution inside each of our brands, delivering attentive service to every one of our guests, and in creating an engaging atmosphere inside all of our restaurants, and these priorities are supported by smart and relative integrated marketing programs that resonate with our guests.”

Lee announced a new addition to Darden Restaurants: Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen.

“The addition of Cheddar’s to the Darden portfolio further enhances our scale,” he said. “Our significant skill provides meaningful synergies for Cheddar’s, further strengthening an already robust business model. Additionally, being part of Darden provides Cheddar’s the opportunity to leverage all of our competitive advantages to help increase sales and margins at existing restaurants and drive disciplined, profitable new restaurant growth.”

Lee also believes that Darden and Cheddar’s have a cultural fit as well.

“We’re focused on the same operating priorities,” he said. “This focus on food, service, and atmosphere has enabled Cheddar’s to become one of the top brands in casual dining, one known for its high quality, made from scratch food at compelling prices in a polished yet warm atmosphere. We believe Cheddar’s is a strategic fit for Darden for several of the reasons. First, it complements our portfolio and allows us to compete in the undisputed value leader in full-service varied menu category. This category remains sizable with evolving preferences that Cheddar’s satisfies.”

What’s more, Lee said that Cheddar’s management team encourages and empowers service-minded team members to be passionate and to “bring the distinctive personalities to their roles, so they can deliver a personalized experience that is authentic and attentive.”

Cheddar’s has average restaurant volumes of 4.4 million, average restaurant guest counts of approximately 6,300 guests per week, and an average check of approximately $13.50, all of which helps provide a strong return on investment and, with only 165 restaurants, a significant runway for growth.

“Cheddar’s is an incredibly strong brand,” Lee added. “In fact, it is the undisputed leader on value perception and intent to recommend, which are both leading indicators of same restaurant sales growth.”

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