Darden Restaurants Inc. has named a new chief restaurant operations officer and a new president for its Red Lobster brand, the company said Wednesday.

Dave Pickens, who was most recently president of Red Lobster, was named chief restaurant operations officer at Darden. Pickens will be responsible for leading the operations leadership team and will work across the company’s brands to improve guest experience, Darden said in a statement.

Pickens, who has worked for the company for more than 40 years, replaces Valerie Insignares in the position. Insignares left the job in January, when she was named president of LongHorn Steakhouse.

Salli Setta, who joined Darden in 1990 and began working with Red Lobster in 2005 as executive vice president of marketing, will take over as president of Red Lobster. As president, she will oversee the brand, which has more than 700 restaurants systemwide.


Both Setta and Pickens will officially begin their new roles on July 15. They will both report directly to chief operating officer Drew Madsen.

“These appointments round out a series of moves we’ve made since January that place new leaders in our most senior roles,” said Darden chief executive Clarence Otis in a statement. “We will continue to look for unique opportunities to deploy our deep talent bench to develop our people and meet the ever-changing needs of our business.”

In January, Darden shuffled several senior executives, moving Dave George from president of LongHorn Steakhouse to a new role as president of Olive Garden; shifting Insignares to her new role as president of LongHorn Steakhouse; and naming Will Setliff senior vice president and chief marketing officer, a role vacated by James J. “JJ” Buettgen, who left the company late last year to become chief executive at Ruby Tuesday.

Orlando, Fla.-based Darden has more than 2,100 restaurants systemwide.

Contact Erin Dostal at erin.dostal@penton.com.
Follow her on Twitter: @ErinDostal