Olive Garden is tearing down its Tuscan decor
Parent company Darden is trying to revamp the Italian food chain with a new look, updated logo, new uniforms and healthier fare.
Welcome to The O.G. In an attempt to turn around the flagging performance of its Olive Garden chain, parent company Darden International (DRI) is tearing down the stone-and-wood archways that have been in place since 2000 and sprucing up the logo.
After installing new Olive Garden President Dave George in January, cutting quarterly expectations for both its Olive Garden and Red Lobster chains and suggesting to The Associated Press that fewer Olive Gardens will open in the next year, a struggling Darden is getting ready to gut its Italian dining cornerstone down to the bottlomless breadsticks. The chain is promising to vary its menu, lower its prices and make it healthier and more "relevant." Unfortunately, it has done all this before with limited effects.
Back in October, Olive Garden introduced 600-calorie menu items and swapped its "When You're Here, Your Family Slogan" for the peppier "Go Olive Garden." The result? Olive Garden sales fell 1.2% for all of 2012. Now the chain is swapping the staff's white shirts and wide ties for the same black button-down shirt and black slacks customers see at just about every other casual-dining chain.
Extracting what remains of Olive Garden's personality may not solve the chain's personality crisis. Since Olive Garden's heyday in the early 2000s, fast-casual chains like Chipotle (CMG) and Panera (PNRA) have been chipping away at its customer base. NPD Group says casual-dining sales in general have been dropping steadily since early 2010 as diners 18 to 47 years old flee in droves. Unsustainable price specials like 2-for-$20 meal deals have eroded casual-dining's value.
While diners are spending 5.5% more at casual-dining chains that offer healthier options, they're spending a lot less at places like Olive Garden overall. Darden has repeatedly placed the blame for woes at Olive Garden and its other chains on Obamacare, payroll taxes and just about everything besides its food and prices. It's just dressing its old problems in some new clothing.
So, farewell fake Tuscan farmhouse and funny waiter ties. The American dining public that's slowly ditching Olive Garden for fast-casual and specialty chains like Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD) eagerly awaits the staid, stainless steel specials factory that's coming next.
Shame on Olive Garden for blaming Obamacare, etc on its poor performance. Olive Garden is relatively expensive for what you get there. They have not varied their menu much and it is rather difficult to find low cal, low fat options that taste good. I really don't care what my servers wear and I have always enjoyed the exterior/interior design.
Due to a lot of unglamorous business travel, I'd eaten at several Italian cuisine themed chain restaurtants many times. Bertucci's, Macaroni Grill, Maggiano's, Carrabba's, California Pizza Kitchen, Pizzaria Uno, Olive Garden and the very regrettable Old Spaghetti Factory. Skipping the Old Spaghetti Factory, the food offered at Olive Garden is of lower quality than most of the other restaurants I mentioned but in the same price range. It small wonder they have slipped down the list of dining options for most diners. Changing wait staff uniforms and renovating the restaurants isn't going to bring patrons back. Offer higher quality food at better prices and they might have a chance. Otherwise, I suggest they concentrate their business where there isn't any competition, so customers can't compare them to better restaurants.
2 Main Problems with Olive Garden? 1. Bad Food, 2. High Prices - more generally, service at the OGs I've been to is slow and poor.
Once upon a time Olive Garden was a nice place to eat: Great atmosphere, good food, fast & friendly service. I enjoyed it.
Fast forward to present; the last couple times I went to Olive Garden the service was slow, definitely not friendly and food was mediocre. The topper was watching the cockroaches run up the walls and over behind the folks at the table across from us. While we did make an effort at being discreet in reporting them we just couldn't keep from laughing at how crazy it was.
Sorry Olive Garden but no more of your soup for me!
People could care less about their décor – they care about the FOOD! I agree with some other comments from people saying that if they would concentrate on preparing good quality, fresh food, they would do better. All they serve is pre-frozen bricks of food that have been re-heated. Everything is pre-cooked and sold to them in massive solid chunks (including their sauces)…which they defrost and heat in a pan before serving to guests. This makes their food taste stale, like a TV dinner. I wouldn’t mind paying $16-$18 for fresh cooked food, but as it stands now, customers are paying a bundle for large servings of TV dinners.
I don't know what Olive Gardens you all go to but at least once a month/ sometimes twice we go to Henrietta/Rochester NY, Jefferson Rd. Olive Garden. We live close to an hour from there so we hit the big city once a month to go to Olive Garden, Palmers, and Wegmans. The service at this Olive Garden is the best ever. Most are local college students. They work in teams, and are extremely helpful, always stopping back at the table to see how your meal is.
As far as the food goes, Olive Garden is my favorite Italian restaurant. Just their commercials on tv are enough to draw me. I love seeing the families and little kids.
Jefferson Rd. in Henrietta is restaurant row. You have your choice of so many - Chilis, Joe's Crab Shack, Red Lobster, Buffalo Wings, Chipolte, Outback, etc., etc., etc.
Olive Garden will always remain my fav.
My family just LOVES the Zuppa Toscana. I sure hope they don't get rid of that soup with their makeover and menu change.
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