How Did I Get Here? Gene Lee wanted to coach but set­tled for quar­ter­back­ing Dar­den Restau­rants

Pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, Dar­den Restau­rants

Bloomberg Businessweek (Asia) - - CONTENTS - GENE LEE

“I was a wannabe ath­lete. I thought I was go­ing to be a foot­ball coach, be­cause my un­cle was a suc­cess­ful one.”

“I went for one year and de­cided to go into a man­age­ment-train­ing pro­gram at York Steak House. My fa­ther didn’t talk to me for about three months.”

“Five York Steak Houses were sold to Pizze­ria Uno. I had to start all over again as a man­ager in train­ing. It was hum­bling.”

“We’re at $7 bil­lion in rev­enue, 150,000 em­ploy­ees, and 1,550 restau­rants. Our culi­nary in­no­va­tion is what gets me ex­cited, like our Olive Gar­den bread­stick sand­wiches. There are al­ways a cou­ple things com­ing out at each brand.”

“There are so many par­al­lels to sports: It’s com­pet­i­tive to see how many guests you can do and how low a la­bor cost you can run, and man­ag­ing was like coach­ing.”

“We owned LongHorn Steak­house, Cap­i­tal Grille, and Bu­ga­boo Creek Steak­house. Our pri­mary chal­lenge was how to get con­trol of all th­ese restau­rants with our brand name on them that fran­chisees owned and op­er­ated.”

“It was a dif­fi­cult tran­si­tion—I gave up re­spon­si­bil­ity for LongHorn, which was like giv­ing away a child.”

With his wife, Amy, and daugh­ters Sa­man­tha (far right) and Jamie, 2012

Ring­ing Nas­daq’s open­ing bell to cel­e­brate Rare’s 25th an­niver­sary, 2006

As a Pop Warner player, 1971

With Olive Gar­den team mem­bers, 2015

Dar­den ac­quires Rare Hos­pi­tal­ity, 2007

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