"Our outlook for the year also reflects the potential impact, though difficult to measure, of recent negative media coverage that focused on Darden within the full-service segment and how we might accommodate healthcare reform."Darden engaged in less public posturing than some restaurant executives and owners, but had started testing a plan to keep workers below the 30 hours of work that would make them eligible for employer-provided health coverage. Not that many Darden workers get that many hours a week, anyway—75 percent of hourly workers were below 30 hours a week to begin with. Darden had been moving in other ways to sharply cut labor costs, slashing pay for bartenders and eliminating other jobs. Not all of Darden's cuts are legal, either—in recent years, the chain has paid nearly $14 million in fines and settlements for wage theft.
"Beyond promotional adjustments, we have been working more comprehensively within specific brands and across the Company to enhance our core menus, service delivery, building design and advertising and we are confident these improvements will enable us to respond successfully to important long-term consumer shifts," added Mr. Otis. "We are also committed to accommodating healthcare reform in ways that work for our employees and guests."
Darden is a perfect illustration that the restaurants making the biggest point of mistreating workers to avoid meeting the requirements of Obamacare are restaurants that were already terrible employers. New health insurance requirements may have made Darden extra determined to keep workers below 30 hours a week, but again, 75 percent of hourly workers were already below that level. Obamacare is just a new excuse for the same old abusive behavior. It's nice to see them taking a hit for it.