A petition signed by nearly 7,000 Olive Garden employees demands an audience with officials of both Seaboard Value, the investment fund trying to take control of the Italian chain’s parent, Darden Restaurants, and Darden itself. The group has warned that it will take “direct actions” before Darden’s upcoming shareholder meeting if its request is not met.
“If we continue to be ignored, we will make our voices heard with Starboard, Darden and the other shareholders,” Steve Gazzo, a six-year Olive Garden employee and an apparent leader of the group, said in a statement. “We’re people, we aren’t assets to be sold off.”
Starboard has released a detailed plan for turning around Olive Garden, the largest business in Darden’s portfolio since it sold off Red Lobster. The strategy calls for cuts within the chain to bring down costs and bolster profits, which the employee group has equated with “massive layoffs.”
Starboard also called for refranching Olive Gardens, which would mean a change in employer for the staffs of those restaurants.