During her twenty-minute rest break at 3 A.M., Sue Abrams, M.D., rolled her eyes when Ken Raskins, a hospital administrator, asked her how she was doing. “It’s real nice of you Ken, to drop by the emergency room to get a feel for what life is like in the trenches,” said Sue. “You know it. The emergency room doctors and nurses know it. And the rest of the ER medical and support staff know it. We’ve got the same enormous problem in our ER that is sweeping the country. The ER has lost most of its original purpose, and the change is chokingthe staff.”“I think I know what you’re getting at,” saidKen. “But please give me an update on theproblem so I can take it up with the senioradministrators.”“Stated simply,” said Sue, “I estimate thatonly about one-third of the patients who cometo the ER are facing a real emergency. They areusing the ER for such reasons as avoiding havingto visit a doctor during the day, or simply toget treatment for a minor illness or injury.”“I’m listening, and I’ll take a few writtennotes,” responded Ken. “Can you give me afew specifics?”“Okay,” said Sue with a sigh of exasperation.“I’ll give you a handful of examples before I haveto get back to the next hypochondriac in the ER.

• A mother brought in her two children withordinary colds. She told me she thought herchildren were dying from the swine flu.

• An older man said he wanted to be treatedfor a stroke because he felt a twitching overhis left eye.

• A pregnant teenager came in with her boyfriend.She said she had a six-pack of beerentrées paired with appetizers and wine from regions of the world where prices are lower or from newer vineyards that charge less than more established ones. Darden also reduced the pace at which it opened new restaurants.

The biggest lesson that was reinforced for him during the downturn, Otis said, was to spend conservatively and to keep debt low even when times are good.

Discussion Questions

  1. What managerial roles is Clarence Otis emphasizing in the case just presented?
  2. What challenges would restaurant managers face in implementing Otis’s approach to keeping the restaurants performing well during a slow period in the economy?
  3. If you have visited a Darden restaurant lately, what suggestions can you offer top- level management for attracting even more customers?
  4. Based on media reports, how successful do you think Clarence Otis has been in helping the Darden chain become a continuing success?
  5. What financial management practices of the Darden chain might be useful to you in man- aging your personal finances?

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