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Darden Restaurants create emergency plan to pay hourly employees amid coronavirus pandemic

Restaurant brand prepared to have $1 billion cash on hand to pay staff

(AP Photo/Mel Evans)
(AP Photo/Mel Evans) (Associated Press)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Orlando-based restaurant company Darden revealed it has an emergency plan to pay all of its employees through the coronavirus pandemic that has forced many businesses to close.

With the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, to avoid gatherings of 10 people, in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus restaurants in Florida were ordered by Gov. Ron DeSantis Tuesday to reduce their capacity by half or move to take-out services only. As a result some businesses closed.

In a news release Thursday regarding Darden’s financial results CEO Gene Lee said some restaurant sales dropped nearly 6% through and others as much as 20% through March 15.

The company’s restaurant brands include Olive Garden, The Capital Grille, Seasons 52, Bahama Breeze, Longhorn Steakhouse, Yard House and Eddie V’s Prime Seafood.

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak the Darden Board plans to withdraw on its $750 million credit.

“The health and safety of our team members, their families and our guests remains our top priority,” Lee said. “We are committed to supporting our team members during this unprecedented time and are pleased to have an emergency pay program to supplement our permanent paid sick leave policy for all of our hourly team members.”

Chief Financial Officer said the company will have approximately $1 billion cash on hand to weather the uncertain times.

“We believe this positions us well to deal with potential near term volatility under the current market conditions," CFO Rick Cardenas said in the news release.

Darden operates more than 1,700 restaurants and employees more than 180,000 people, according to the company’s website.

Earlier this month, Darden created a paid sick leave program for its hourly employees.

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