A Hedge Fund Wants to Cut Jobs at Olive Garden, but Everyone Is More Worried About Losing Breadsticks

Comments

1
I wonder how many of these pricks from Wharton have ever run a successful restaurant?
2
Please tell me that somewhere in the 300 pages, my favorite bizspeak phrase appears: "At the end of the day…"
3
What bothers me more is the schmucks who put this together probably make more per year than I already have in my entire professional life (QFC money don't count)
4
"I don't like talking about my flair."
5
Ate at an Olive Garden once, not my choice.

The alcoholic drink was such a big un, I have no memory of the food.

Which is probably the point.

6
I think people are annoyed cost cutting by not prepping anything onsite and improving quality are not synonymous. That and people are posting their Yelp-like complaints about requesting a table away from children. Yeah, that's possible dipshit.
7
wow, was this a work assignment or something you did in your spare time?
8
A. I can't believe someone got paid six figures to come up with that bullet list. Innovate to stay relevant? Make service a top priority? Does anyone anywhere still believe this tripe?

B. Anybody else find that the more a chain restaurant advertises low prices, the less they want to eat there? I know what good food costs, in both materials and labor, and that ain't it. It's more convenient to stay home and open a can of Beef-a-roni, and likely to be similar in terms of the flavor experience.
9
I love this piece right here. Wow.

@2, if you haven't yet seen it, please enjoy, courtesy Rich Juzwiak: http://gawker.com/at-the-end-of-the-day-…
10
I wonder how much it costs Sauron, I mean Starboard, to put together a 300-page document that expresses approximately 300 words of content. Also, what @1 said.
11
No more Chinese buffet? Fuck.
12
In some parts of the State *cough Wenatchee cough*, Olive Garden is considered finer dining.

I don't get to Wenatchee very often, and the good place keep closing down.

And their Mexican food really sucks, one would think Wenatchee could do decent Mexican food.
13
@12: I had p good Mexican at a place in Cashmere - Tacqueria El Chavo.
14
Why has nobody posted this?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJxnAR8V…
15
The food review section of that document is damning, like, not salting the pasta water so they could get longer warranty service on pots; but I don't see how a company that wants to find more cost savings can IMPROVE that...
16
Olive Garden has already partnered with Yelp in 2014 for Elite Events to ensure the Yelp Elites will rave about Olive Garden and provide 5-star reviews....
17
@16, three stars in Seattle. Fuck I hate Yelp.
18
How do they reconcile order by tablet with "make service a top priority"?

Ate at Olive Garden once, can't remember the food (thank Xena for booze). Ate at Chilies once, booze too watered down to mask cat puke food.

You are the most dedicated journalist in the universe, with more endurance than Job, first the hell..er.. bus trips to cover the Zombies v Mittens circus two years ago, now 300!!!! pages of this drivel! Yo, Stranger, give Mr Constant hazzard pay for pain and suffering.
19
@15: What's the reason to add salt the pasta water? We all need less sodium in our diets anyway.

I have no beef with Olive Garden. It is astonishing how its corporate practices ruffles people's delicate sensibilities.
20
Olive Garden is not a fine, Italian restaurant, and it's not a drive-thru. However, it most assuredly is a fast food restaurant chain for those baby boomers who gladly trade quality for low price every time. And, that is its problem.

Olive Garden serves the exact same quality of food that you can find in the frozen and refrigerated sections of Walmart, Kroger and most any big box grocery store.

So, all that they are providing you that you can't get at home is a larger, shared dining room with tacky, plastic decor and a sad server to bring your food to you from the microwave.

Here's all you need to succeed in an Italian restaurant:
1. Fresh, local ingredients
2. Simple menu of authentic Italian recipes served freshly made in generous portions
3. Good selection of well-paired wines
4. Skilled, experienced chef & kitchen staff
5. Well-managed front of the house with well-trained and supported staff
6. Simple, elegant, understated decor with hints of rustic, authentic Italian charm (those flowers better be freshly cut, and never plastic)
7. Clean, organized restaurant front to back
8. Accessible, easy to find location
9. Basic marketing
10. Good, honest business manager

Olive Garden fails most, if not all, of these basic points of owning and running a successful, authentic Italian restaurant.

It is a Pizza Hut pretending to be a fine, Italian restaurant, nevermind the ever-present, abundant proof to the contrary easily observed from the fast food menu, quality and prices to the plastic, cookie-cutter, chain restaurant decor and its sad, underpaid staff.

It may not see the failure in that concept, but its former customers do.
21
Forget tuition, the cost of getting an MBA is your fucking soul.
22
@19, spoken like someone who lives on Cap'n Crunch and frozen tamales. I'd explain the concept of boiling point elevation, but it would be too much like science for you.
23
@22: Your pathetic excuse is covered in detail by HufPo, and says it's about flavor period.

Nonsense, there is so many other alternatives to salt. It really isn't needed. Add some garlic powder.

And if not adding salt suits The Olive Garden, there should be no reason anyone should be bothered by it - as concurred by the Huffington Puffington Post except that "flavor" is not a reason - period.
24
@20

Olive Garden has been around for 32 years...how is that a "failed concept"?
25
@19

Do you fit the target demographic for which Olive Garden was designed?

Are you...

Driven by price first, convenience second and rarely, if ever, by quality?

Completely comfortable with 80s and 90s chain restaurant decor?

Blissfully unaware or totally uncaring of the difference between good food and bad, between store bought and freshly made?

Uncaring about underpaid workers and oblivious to the costs to our society?

In agreement that to seem, rather than to be, is an acceptable compromise so long as its cheap and fast?

An aging baby boomer or Gen-Xer who lives in his parent's shadow?

If you answered "yes" to three or more of the above qualifications, then congratulations you are Olive Garden's chosen customer.

The problem, though, is that you're older, cheap and set in your ways, which is perfectly fine for you, but it spells nothing but doom and dead end for Olive Garden's future.

Like so many things that came to be in the baby boomer generation - drive-thru's, cheap chain restaurants, shopping malls - their future survival is tied to you, not so much your children and most certainly not your grandchildren.

Olive Garden is trying to be the chain restaurant it has always been for you as its primary customer while pretending to change with window dressing in a vain attempt to fool the younger generation.

Obviously, the kids aren't the idiots that Olive Garden's older management assumed they are.

It's the equivalent of an old man coloring his hair, donning a toupee, wearing his grandson's clothes and driving a cool, hybrid sports coupe.

Nobody's fooled.

Olive Garden has to make a choice - stick with baby boomers and compete with Old Country Buffet or reinvent itself completely for a younger generation and compete with Chipotle's.

Either way, it will never be an authentic, fine Italian restaurant.
26
@25: It was never meant to be a fine, authentic, Italian restaurant. For that, you'd have to go to a fine, authentic, Italian restaurant.
As for your list of grieances, they may well spell doom for the business. And if they do fine. And if everyone looses their jobs, fine.
Businesses exist to make a profit, not to provide a living to people. With successful business that treat their employees well, the two go hand-in-hand. Such may not be the case with The Olive Garden, in which case they'll go under. The employees will find other jobs and life will go on.
27
@24

Spoken like a true baby boomer.

My grandfather has been around even longer than Olive Garden's menu, and he was an amazing athlete when he was my age. But, he's no longer a future Olympic athlete, and the training that worked to make him such a success decades ago wouldn't even get him a spot in the tryouts, much less on the team or on the field.

Past success based on an old business model and an even older and aging target demographic is a failed concept for a restaurant that wants to be appeal to a younger demographic and still be around another decade, or two or three.

Past success is not necessarily predictive of future success. In fact, it rarely is in the restaurant business.

The old, guys in charge of Olive Garden are much like your question - lost in the past, blind to the present and clueless about the future. The fact that they just don't get it is the proof of the problem.

Olive Garden may have been a phenomenal success with baby boomers, but they are a colossal failure with their grandkids. Thus, they are a failed concept for a restaurant that hopes to have success now and in the future.

Like it or not, the past is not the future, even if you stubbornly repeat it.
28
@12: You're really pretty ignorant when it comes to Wenatchee. That is the home of the Windmill steak house, which in my experience is the finest steak dinner in the state. Their prime rib is pretty outstanding too. We're not talking any of this "melt-in-your-mouth" beef, either. We're talking about beef with plenty of substance and packed with flavor.
29
@26

"Businesses exist to make a profit, not to provide a living to people."

These are not mutually exclusive concepts.

Banks and Harvard have made an entire generation or two of business investors and managers into short-term obsessed, self-serving sociopaths.

Nothing they build is made in harmony with the needs of the community.

They don't build value; they devise means of extracting it like a witless parasite or consuming cancer.

A well-conceived, well-executed and well-managed restaurant business should be capable of serving its customers, employees, owners and community equally well.

To serve one at the expense of all others is still a failure, regardless of the myopic view that you can show a profit to investors while turning a blind eye to the growing debt and deficit that you are creating with all of the other stakeholders.

This "Walmart" business models where you extract more and more value from the community, the customers, the manufacturers and the employees to dishonestly proclaim a "profit" for one stakeholder, the investors, is a damned lie, a god-damned lie. And, only a damned fool and/or soulless sociopathic could be so fucking myopic or blind to the unsustainable reality as to proclaim it otherwise.
30
@23, it's not strictly about flavor. Chemistry. Starches. Temperature. Texture. Reductions. Sauce starter. It's just wrong.

32
heh...they'll kill it trying to extract more profit out of it...this is what the corporate 1% fails to get about revenue farming the 99% (extracting assets): you have to fertilize the soil (ie, pay people) occasionally or they won't have money to go to your "upscale" high-margin fast food joint. The whole document is an exercise in grinding down the quality to lower costs. Who cares, really, "Darden" and the big corporate chains were always just industrial fast-food, and absolutely no loss.

@1 - The Wharton/hedgie guys themselves probably never ran the restaurant, but you would be mistaken about the idea that no business school ever producing a successful bean-counter corporate approach to running a restaurant; there are people with four year degrees from real schools in "hospitality management" out running hotels and corporate chains. I first encountered one of these types while working my way through school at a regional chain doing a (mercifully short) stint cooking at a regional chain.

On that note, I'm skeptical they ordinarily get customers drunk to make the food irrelevant - alcohol is the absolutely highest margin stuff being sold, and strict (and skimpy) pours are the butcher's thumb on the scale. Look at the comments on the chicken and asparagus: the 'allowable error margin' is all negative - never serve a piece larger than you advertise, but you can deviate on the short side. I'm sure the concern about breadsticks is that people fill up on them for free and they think it reduces order size.

33
@32, agreed. The point is to extract a short-term gain, not save or improve Darden Foods.
34
Restaurants should be run by chef's and maitre d's, not accountants.

In fact, accountants shouldn't EVER run ANYTHING. Except an adding machine.
35
The only "activist investors" I care about are the ones that try to destroy MLMs like Herbalife.

@23: "Nonsense, there is so many other alternatives to salt. It really isn't needed. Add some garlic powder."

That's terrible advice.