As the Vice President of Enterprise Beverage Strategy & Innovation for Darden Restaurants, Helen Mackey brings over 20 years of industry experience to her role. She is a credentialed executive, innovative thinker and awarded industry expert. Helen and her team lead beverage strategy and innovation for wine, spirits, and beer for each of the Darden concepts including Capital Grille, Eddie Vs, Seasons 52, Olive Garden, Longhorn Steak House, Yard House, Bahama Breeze and Cheddars Scratch Kitchen.
Before joining Darden, Helen spent five years at Ruth’s Hospitality Group as VP Beverage & Culinary where she developed successful, signature programs including; a national Happy Hour coined Sizzle, Swizzle and Swirl, an award-winning national wine list, an industry-leading, hand-crafted cocktail program and an annual 5-part, national wine and spirit educational dinner series. As head of culinary strategy, she spear-headed the refresh of the brand’s menu – a tribute to 50 years of business.
Prior to her current role, Helen enjoyed an eight year career at Diageo that spanned senior roles in wine product innovation, national wine brand management, emerging market development and national account sales. Before entering the corporate world, she was a pioneering entrepreneur in the wine world who founded, ran and sold an online retail wine club business.
As passionate about education as she is about business, Helen Mackey is a Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Diploma holder (DWS) who has owned and run three WSET wine schools in Napa, San Francisco and Orlando. She is passionate about education being a part of everything she does in the business and has been particularly successful in embedding a culture of inspired learning throughout every organization she has been a part of. She is a respected teacher, lecturer, TV guest and industry panelist whose work in wine, beverage and culinary has been written about by many publications – including being a Wine Spectator panel expert on the US wine market and alcohol trends in America and being awarded 2016 Wine Director of the Year from Wine Enthusiast magazine.
A native of the Northeast, Helen Mackey is a graduate of Columbia College, Columbia University with an MBA from Rollins College and after 10 years in Napa Valley, is happily located in College Park, Fl with her husband and two spirited sons.