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What drives the nation’s top foodservice operators? We asked the 2018 Silver Plate Class and got an inside look at what makes them the operator all-stars they are today. Find out what they have to say about their passion for foodservice, career accomplishments and what it means to be part of a legendary group of operators.

Gene Lee, President & Chief Executive Officer of Darden Restaurants, received the 2018 Silver Plate Award in the Chain Full Service category. Nominated by Ecolab.



What do you enjoy most about your career in foodservice?

I have had the opportunity to work with passionate people who have dedicated their lives to leading and growing great restaurant brands.

Tell us about your biggest career accomplishment:

Being named CEO of Darden – after a protracted proxy fight that resulted in a new Board of Directors being elected by shareholders – is my most significant career accomplishment.

How is your segment making a difference for the foodservice industry?

There are a number of ways we’re making a difference, but I believe three key examples are:

1) Creating opportunity for the thousands of people we employ

2) Building diverse and inclusive workforces that reflect the communities we serve

3) Being good corporate citizens by ensuring the sustainability, including the social and environmental benefits, of the ingredients and resources we use.

What advice do you have for someone new to the foodservice industry?

Become an expert on the basics of how to serve a guest, and let that serve as the foundation for everything you do.

What does being an IFMA Silver Plate recipient mean to you?

This award recognizes Darden for its leadership and contributions to the industry. It recognizes our 175,000 team members and the great work they do every day to deliver great guest experiences. I accept this award on their behalf.

Join us at the IFMA Gold & Silver Plate Awards Celebration and help us in honoring Gene Lee and the rest of the Silver Plate Class. Click HERE for event information and to reserve your table now!