The Green Frog, Waycross, Georgia, 1955
In 1938, Bill Darden, just 19 years old, opened The Green Frog Restaurant. This 25 seat luncheonette, was located in his hometown of Waycross, Georgia. Darden promoted his expanding restaurant as providing "Service with a Hop." With a sense of subtlety, he encouraged his guests to return regularly by placing the phrase, "Enjoy Life, Eat Out More Often'', across the front of The Green Frog menu. Darden welcomed people without regard to race (not always a popular choice in the south at the time), offered his food at moderate prices, and paid acute attention to service. His restaurant became very successful.
Utilizing the financial rewards of The Green Frog, Darden invested in several Howard Johnsons and hotels in Florida. The advent of air conditioning, the blossoming network of interstate highways, and a growing population, provided the path to opportunity for this entrepreneur. Residents and tourists needed places to eat. In 1968, Bill Darden thinking that a seafood restaurant might be successful in a non-coastal location, opened the first Red Lobster in Lakeland, Florida.
The rest is definitely history. Darden, as the corporate entity is now known, grew to become one of the world's largest full- service restaurant company owning and operating more than 2,000 restaurants. Bill Darden died in 1994 at the age of 75.
Courtesy Private Collection.
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