Darden Restaurants is rolling out a sustainable restaurant design initiative across its entire portfolio for both new restaurants and remodels. Aimed at reducing the environmental impact of its restaurants while increasing the operational efficiency, Darden is designing eight restaurants at its three largest brands — Red Lobster, Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse –to meet the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards.
This latest announcement marks a big change in Darden’s environmental strategy. In 2008, Darden along with four other restaurant chains scored one or zero points for their climate performance.
The Olive Garden in Jonesboro, Ark., which opened for business last month, is the first of eight restaurants targeted for LEED certification. One more Olive Garden and two Red Lobsters are scheduled to open in 2010, and one Olive Garden, two Red Lobsters and one LongHorn Steakhouse will follow in 2011.
The Olive Garden in Jonesboro features several energy-saving features including the increased use of natural light, Energy-Star rated equipment, LED light bulbs that use seven watts of energy and last up to 50,000 hours, and reclaimed heating from condensing units of the HVAC system and freezer/cooler system to heat hot water.
Other sustainable features include low-flow water nozzles in the kitchen and automatic faucets to save water and the use of recycled building materials such as sheetrock, doors, windows and carpet squares.
Darden’s newly opened corporate headquarters facility in Orlando also is on track to earn LEED Gold certification. The company claims it is the largest LEED Gold new construction project in Florida.
The new headquarters also incorporates several energy- and water-saving features including a high-efficiency heating and air conditioning system, automatic lighting system, increased natural light, a highly reflective roof system, and restrooms and irrigation systems that use reclaimed water that save nearly 2 million gallons of water annually.