Long before developers broke ground on a new $150 million shopping center near Richmond, Va., they surveyed residents to discern their dining preferences. Red Lobster and Olive Garden topped the list. The developers, whose other properties tended to be in more upscale locales, acquiesced, and now the eateries serve a mix of the area’s working-class patrons and travelers from the nearby airport.
Clarence Otis Jr., the chairman and CEO of Darden Restaurants, which owns the popular family-style chains, explained the company’s recipe for success in Fast Company magazine’s July 2009 issue:
“On the continuum of intuitive restaurants versus systematized, analytic restaurants, we’re very analytic,” he said about the Orlando, Fla.-based company. “The direction of our business is based on understanding customers.”