September 19, 2014
Investors Recipe to fix Olive Garden is nearly endless
Once billed as family friendly authentic Italian, Olive Garden has been taking some PR lumps in the past few years. The butt of running jokes about it being more prefab suburban eatery than authentic Italian kitchen have come fast and furious. But according to 5WPR CEO Ronn Torossian says that is not the only thing critics say the Garden needs to get right.
Businessweek recently reported on a hedge fund’s interest in “fixing” the restaurant chain. A nearly 300-page report that is as detailed as it is damning.
Some reported highlights? Olive Garden doesn’t know how to cook pasta, soaks salads in too much dressing, forgets to offer wine and sells menu items no one in Italy would touch with a ten-foot breadstick. Did we mention this was a report published by people who WANT the chain to be successful?
Yep. That tough course of bad news was cooked up by Starboard Value, a large shareholder who believes that, despite the current shortcomings, Olive Garden can rise again, bigger and tastier. But only if it makes many changes to nearly every aspect of its operation.
No aspect is safe or sacred. The report criticizes limo rides, jet trips, straw size, and chicken preparation. Not to mention the quality of the take home containers. Oh, right, it also calls for the entire board to get the boot.
Extreme? Well, maybe, but consider, according to sales numbers, Olive Garden is “forgetting” to sell one of the most important aspects of any Italian meal experience. Wine sales have plummeted.
Not quite as blatantly miscalculated, but still a high source of waste, Olive Garden is tossing out baskets full of breadsticks with nearly every meal. An issue Bloomberg reported the report as calling a “massive, unnecessary waste.”
Oh, and they taste like hot dog buns. And the pasta is terrible. Ouch.
The report delivers hit after hit after hit … but really nothing detractors of the chain have not been saying for years. The only difference is that now, the naysayers have a document that they can assert “proves” their complaints are valid.
Tough to argue with that. Tough as reheated breadsticks.