Speed Reads


Investor asks Olive Garden for more booze, less breadsticks

One of Olive Garden's investors has an interesting proposal for the chain: Ease up on the breadsticks, and start pushing the alcohol.

Starboard Value LP, an activist investor, has created a presentation of nearly 300 slides, which detailed how Olive Garden could improve its sales results. According to Starboard, "execution has recently failed to live up to the brand image" at the chain. One particular problem, Starboard noted, is the breadsticks, which apparently are "filled with more air and have less flour" than the ones Olive Garden served in the 1990s.

It's not just the breadstick recipe that Starboard took issue with, either: According to the presentation, Olive Garden used to serve five breadsticks to tables of four, but the restaurant serves more breadsticks today, which leads to waste and monetary loss. Aside from the breadstick problem, Starboard was also disappointed that only eight percent of Olive Garden's sales are from alcoholic drinks, while many other Italian chains make more than twice that percentage from booze.

Is there anything this investor thinks Olive Garden is doing right? Apparently not — according to Starboard, Olive Garden isn't even cooking its pasta correctly. "If you Google 'how to cook pasta,' the first step of Pasta 101 is to salt the water," Starboard wrote. "How does the largest Italian dining concept in the world not salt the water for pasta?"