By LAURA WILLCOX
Providing diners endless pasta and breadsticks comes at a cost, and that cost is maintained by not cleaning their carpets as often as you’d think. While Olive Garden certainly vacuums and cleans their restaurants throughout the day, the carpets are only steam-cleaned once a month.
Like most of the restaurant industry, Olive Garden employees rely on tipping, but the concept of tipping has come under fire lately for discrimination against staff. Even the CEO of Olive Garden’s parent company admits that there is a disparity in pay, depending on the location.
It turns out throwing away leftover unlimited breadsticks was costing Olive Garden $5 million a year. To mitigate this huge cost, Olive Garden now offers only one breadstick per person and an extra for the table, but you can always ask for more, and they’re free.
Apart from the breadsticks, the “never-ending” menu items, like the salad and pasta bowl, were contributing to major food waste and profit loss. Despite initial customer disappointment, Olive Garden ended the offer in 2019 and has been able to keep their meal prices low since.
Olive Garden’s extensive menu of diverse, non-Italian offerings was adding even more to the food and financial waste. The variety was also causing inefficiencies and errors in the kitchen and confusion among customers, so fewer items and higher quality is now their strategy.
At a time when other restaurants aren’t doing so well, Olive Garden’s huge customer base has the brand thriving. With 875 locations in the US as of 2021, and 57 restaurants across Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and Panama, Olive Garden has a constant inflow of customers.
Olive Garden saw record profits in 2021 thanks to their take-out service. They refused to use third-party delivery apps, which famously take a very large commission from restaurants that use their services to reach more customers.
Because pasta is such a cheap ingredient, Olive Garden is easily able to continue offering big, comforting meals of pasta as their signature sell. With a pound of fettuccine alfredo costing $10 to make at home, Olive Garden gets its profit margins by charging just $15 for the same dish.
Due to recent inflation, costs have steadily risen, and Olive Garden has upped their prices accordingly. With a 9% increase in food and beverage costs and a 9% increase in employee wages over the last quarter, though, Olive Garden has increased its food prices by only 4%.