Former Executive Vice President/Darden Restaurants
Blaine Sweatt, '76, President, New Business Division, Darden Restaurants
In 2007, Blaine Sweatt, a longtime restaurant industry leader and community builder for Darden Restaurants, that owns and operates Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Bahama Breeze, Smokey Bones Barbeque and Grill and Seasons 52(R) restaurant companies, retired as the executive officer of the company and as a member of its Board of Directors.
"Throughout his career, Blaine has provided leadership to help build Darden's business and shape its strategy to be a multibrand restaurant growth company," said Darden CEO Clarence Otis Jr. "He is a visionary leader who has inspired others to believe in a dream and follow it with the passion and vigor needed to make it a reality."
Following military service and graduate school, Blaine joined General Mills Restaurants in 1976 and moved through a variety of menu-planning, purchasing and financial positions. In 1981 he was named Director of New Concept Development and then Vice President, General Manager of the New Business Division in 1986, and ultimately president of that Division in 1991. Over the past 25 years he led the teams that developed Olive Garden, The Order Inn (a home delivery concept in Minneapolis), China Coast, Bahama Breeze, Smokey Bones, and most recently, Seasons 52.
When Darden spun off from General Mills in 1995 as an independent public company, Sweatt was part of the launch team, serving as President of the New Business Division and as a founding member of Darden's Board of Directors.
Sweatt is well known throughout the restaurant industry and has been a frequent participant in industry forums and conferences. He is a member of the University of Central Florida Hall of Fame and has been a member of the Executive Committees of both the University's College of Business and its Rosen School of Hospitality Management.
As a founding member of the Darden Restaurants Foundation Board of Trustees, Sweatt helped guide charitable grants totaling $45 million.