Olive Garden Unveils New Marketing Plan

Coming to an Olive Garden near you: changes!

Darden Restaurants, Olive Garden’s parent company, announced many new changes to come to the struggling restaurant chain, including a recently revised menu, new logo, and interior renovations.

The numbers at Olive Garden have been slipping over the last few years and last quarter was more of the same. In December, Darden says same store sale slipped 10.5%, January 2.0% and February 2.6%. On February 24, the restaurant rolled out an updated menu, The “Cucina Mia” menu allows diners to build their own plate ala Chipotle and other fast casual success stories. Starting at just $9.99, Olive Garden regulars will be pleasantly surprised with the lower price point.

As Olive Garden goes through rebranding, they are reminded of the failures of other restaurant chains that have gone through the same process. Recently, Ruby Tuesday underwent a massive rebranding with only marginal success. Currently Ruby Tuesday sits at about the same position they were in prior to reinventing themselves.

In the coming months and years, as part of the repositioning, Olive Garden will remodel 75 stores in fiscal 2014, 150 to 175 stores in 2015-2017. Each one of the remodeled stores will be outfitted with the new Olive Garden logo. They will also offer more specials to attract youthful diners including lunch specials and small plate offerings.

The new Olive Garden logo has seen some contention since its unveiling with some saying it looks “childish” and “unprofessional.”

Or perhaps Olive Garden was shooting for another look.

Anyway you look at it, many don’t believe that a new logo is going to save Olive Garden. Part of the intrigue was being able to get “almost Italian” food at a decent price, and those bread sticks. However, as foodies are now realizing, one cannot build an empire on a foundation of bread sticks. Olive Garden does have a lot of work to do to win back customers, and entice brand new customers through their doors. The question remains, will they be able to do it?

Olive Garden has won the reinvention in one aspect, however. People are talking about them again. For any business, that is a good thing. Especially so for Olive Garden.