The story of Clarence Otis Jr. – Darden CEO leads Red Lobster and Olive Garden
Chalk this one up to the infinite list of things I didn’t know. Thanks to Rose for the heads up.
The Higher Education of the Nation’s Top African-American Restaurateur
Each week tens of thousands of diners eat at an Olive Garden or Red Lobster restaurant. Few of these diners know that the CEO heading these large restaurant chains is a black man.
Clarence Otis Jr. is the CEO of Darden Restaurants Inc., the largest casual dining operator in the nation. The firm operates nearly 1,400 company-owned restaurants coast to coast serving 300 million meals annually. Darden employs 150,000 workers and has annual revenues of $6 billion.
Born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, Otis moved to Los Angeles when he was 6 years old. His father was a high school dropout who worked as a janitor.
The family lived in Watts at the time of the 1965 riots. In the post-Watts period, Otis recalls being stopped and questioned by police several times a year because of the color of his skin.
A high school guidance counselor recommended him for a scholarship at Williams College, the highly selective liberal arts institution in Massachusetts. Otis graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Williams and went on to earn a law degree at Stanford.
Otis landed on Wall Street as a merger and acquisitions attorney for J.P. Morgan Securities. He joined Darden Restaurants in 1995 as corporate treasurer. He became CEO in 2004.