Olive Garden Breadsticks, long a delicious staple with soup, salad, or dinner, will now be used to make sandwiches for lunch.
The New York Post is reporting that Olive Garden will try to entice customers to return to the restaurant by using their popular breadsticks to make a Chicken Parmigiana sandwich and an Italian Meatball sandwich. The sandwiches will roll out of Olive Garden kitchens on June 1.
Justin Sikora, representative for the Darden Restaurant Group, Olive Garden’s parent company, said the breadsticks used for the sandwiches will be just a bit shorter and somewhat wider than the traditional breadsticks. The breadstick sandwiches are an attempt to reverse a three-year sales slump that Olive Garden is currently suffering through.
The idea for the sandwiches came about from a disagreement over Olive Garden’s unlimited breadsticks policy. The disagreement was with an investor, Starboard Value. Starboard claimed that Darden was not being diligent with the breadsticks, in number and in quality, saying the breadsticks were like hot dog buns. Starboard then proceeded to win its takeover bid of Darden’s board.
During an interview with Wall Street Week, Starboard CEO Jeff Smith announced, “it might surprise people that I actually like the breadsticks,” then announced the plans for the breadstick sandwiches.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Olive Garden is quite excited about the new item. “Just when you thought breadsticks couldn’t get any better… introducing the Breadstick Sandwich, coming this summer!” tweeted the Olive Garden account.
Smith is a bit more resigned, but feels that the sandwiches, which customers were making on their own with the original breadsticks and their meals, is just a natural, logical progression. “We’re going to use that great brand equity and we’re about to come up with breadstick sandwiches,” said Smith.
“We’re always looking to evolve our menu,” Olive Garden spokeswoman Jessica Dinon told the paper. “We’re always bringing on new items, and right now we’re really taking those dishes our guests know and love and giving them more ways to enjoy it. Obviously, people love our breadsticks.”
The plan is that the sandwiches will start on the lunch menu. The Chicken Parmigiana sandwich will have a fried chicken cutlet with marinara sauce and melted cheese on the new-sized breadsticks. The Italian Meatball sandwich will have Olive Garden’s great italian meatballs, marinara sauce, and melted cheese on the new breadsticks. Each meal will come with a side of fries. The Italian Meatball sandwich will be $6.99, while the Chicken Parmigiana sandwich will be $7.99.
And, yes, according to Olive Garden, the sandwiches will come with unlimited breadsticks.
[Image courtesy of Darden Restaurant Group]