Darden CEO Says ‘War for Talent’ Pressuring Restaurant Wages

(Bloomberg) -- For Darden Restaurants Inc., the owner of Olive Garden, the difficult task of finding workers isn’t getting any easier.

“Moving forward, the biggest challenge in the industry is going to be the war for talent,” Chief Executive Officer Gene Lee said on a conference call Thursday. “The wage pressure is going to be there for a while.”

With U.S. unemployment rates near record lows, restaurants are struggling to find enough staff to flip burgers, wait tables and unload food from trucks. Amid this backdrop, Darden is expecting wage inflation of about 5 percent this fiscal year.

Darden surmounted the wage pressure last quarter with growth at its Olive Garden and Longhorn Steakhouse chains. Shares rose 4 percent to $122.62 on Thursday.

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