Darden Restaurants, the $6.3 billion owner of such popular brands

Darden Restaurants, the $6.3 billion owner of such popular brands as Olive Garden, Seasons 52, and Bahama Breeze, serves more than 320 million meals annually in its 1,500 restaurants across the U.S. and Canada. Before any one of these meals is placed before a guest, the ingredients for each recipe must pass quality control inspections at the source, ranging from measurement and weighing to tasting, touching, or lab testing. Darden has differentiated itself from its restaurant peers by developing the gold standard in continuous improvement.
To assure both customers and the company that quality expectations are met, Darden uses a rigorous inspection process, employing statistical process control (SPC) as part of its "Farm to Fork" program. More than 50 food scientists, microbiologists, and public health professionals report to Ana Hooper, vice president of quality assurance.
As part of Darden's Point Source program, Hooper's team, based in Southeast Asia (in China, Thailand, and Singapore) and Latin America (in Equador, Honduras, and Chile), approves and inspects-and works with Darden buyers to purchase-more than 50 million pounds of seafood each year for restaurant use. Darden used to build quality in at the end by inspecting shipments as they reached U.S. distribution centers. Now, thanks to coaching and partnering with vendors abroad, Darden needs but a few domestic inspection labs to verify compliance to its exacting standards. Food vendors in source countries know that when supplying Darden, they are subject to regular audits that are stricter than U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards.
Two Quality Success Stories Quality specialists' jobs include raising the bar and improving quality and safety at all plants in their geographic area. The Thai quality representative, for example, worked closely with several of Darden's largest shrimp vendors to convert them to a production- line-integrated quality assurance program. The vendors were able to improve the quality of shrimp supplied and reduce the percentage of defects by 19%.
Likewise, when the Darden quality teams visited fields of growers/ shippers in Mexico recently, it identified challenges such as low employee hygiene standards, field food safety problems, lack of portable toilets, child labor, and poor working conditions. Darden addressed these concerns and hired third-party independent food safety verification firms to ensure continued compliance to standards.
SPC Charts
SPC charts, such as the one shown on page 253 in this supplement, are particularly important. These charts document precooked food weights; meat, seafood and poultry temperatures; blemishes on produce; and bacteria counts on shrimp-just to name a few. Quality assurance is part of a much bigger process that is key to Darden's success-its supply chain (see Chapters 2 and 11 for discussion and case studies on this topic). That's because quality comes from the source and flows through distribution to the restaurant and guests.
Discussion Questions *
1. How does Darden build quality into the supply chain?
2. Darden applies SPC in many product attributes. Identify where these are probably used.
3. The SPC chart on page 253 illustrates Darden's use of control charts to monitor the weight of salmon filets. Given these data, what conclusion do you, as a Darden quality control inspector, draw? What report do you issue to your supervisor? How do you respond to the salmon vendor?
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