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Remembering a social crusader named Bill Darden

Restaurant Rewind: In the era of Jim Crow, the namesake of Darden Restaurants refused to segregate dining rooms, even in the Deep South of 1935. Here's how the industry pioneer made a difference.

Tipping has been villainized by organized labor as a vestige of slavery, an assertion that strains credibility. What makes the assertion even more difficult to accept is the background of the restaurant company that’s likely more dependent on tipping than any other employer in the business.

Bill Darden is well-known to any student of the business as the founder of Darden Restaurants and Red Lobster, the brand that made the company a full-service powerhouse. Yet few are likely aware of the role he played in combating racism, going back as far as 1935.

Darden’s refusal to segregate his dining rooms put him and his business at considerable risk. Yet he made color-blindness a plank of the company’s culture.

Join us as we look back in this week’s episode of Restaurant Rewind at the stance Darden took and how sharply it contrasted with the industry’s attitude of even just a few decades ago.

Hit “Play” to learn how one strong adherent to tipping was all about treating people equally, regardless of their skin color.

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