Olive Garden made headlines recently with the announcement of its indulgent never-ending pasta pass, but now it seems there was a reason for all that carb-loading. Olive Garden’s investment firm, Starboard Value Partners, recently released a 300-page damning slideshow, highlighting each of the Italian restaurant chain’s shortcomings and problems that have led to serious decline in sales and growth.
Since we are guessing you don’t want to go through the whole 300-page report, we’ve highlighted some of the most epic, most ridiculous, and sometimes, most obvious accusations, as well as some of the fettuccini Alfredo factory’s defenses in return.
Olive Garden does not salt their pasta water. Apparently, Olive Garden has ended their policy of salting the pasta water. Come on, guys, that’s Pasta 101.
The pasta is rarely al dente. Any good Italian worth their (pasta water) salt will tell you that “perfetto” pasta is firm. Starboard observed that most of Olive Garden’s pasta dishes come out mushy. Olive Garden said in response:“Ingredient quality and recipe execution are always an important priority.”
Unlimited breadsticks are wasteful. It used to be that Olive Garden would give a table of diners enough breadsticks for each person, and give more if asked, but now there are way too many breadsticks being served, and many end up getting thrown away. Olive Garden has said that unlimited breadsticks are a sign of “Italian generosity.”
Lack of Italian authenticity. As Starboard points out, menu items like fried lasagna fritta, hummus, and Spanish-style tapas are not, in fact, Italian. Olive Garden responded with, “We continue to purchase from Italian vendor partners and continue to leverage our Culinary Institute in Tuscany.”
The salads are drowned in dressing. “Salads are overfilled and over-dressed, leading to added cost and unhappy customers,” says Starboard.
Food looks nothing like it does in advertisements. Unfortunately, though this may be true, it’s not a problem unique to Olive Garden; this photo of lasagna primavera looks very different from the real thing, to say the least.
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Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter@JoannaFantozzi