Olive Garden introduces new menu items, ad campaign

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“It’s important that we continue to innovate to meet the changing needs of our guests,” said Jay Spenchian, Olive Garden’s executive vice president of marketing in a statement.

The advertising campaign, called “Go Olive Garden,” highlights the chain’s menu and promotional changes. In separate spots, the campaign features a woman stretching in yoga pants to illustrate the fact that the menu caters to health-conscious consumers, and a couple sitting down to eat Olive Garden’s food in front of their television, highlighting the company’s take-home dinner promotion.

“We believe this new campaign better reflects Olive Garden as a lively Italian gathering place where out guests can enjoy spending time with family and friends,” Spenchian said in a statement.

The ads are a departure from the company’s long-running “When You’re Here, You’re Family” campaign.

“One word I would use to describe [the campaign] would be aspirational,” said Dan Dahlen, chief executive officer of Dahlen Communications Inc., a branding and advertising company. “It seems to be moving from a very family-focused type model to a young, vibrant, on-the-move, watching-what-you-eat, careful-of-calorie-intake kind of target.They’re definitely wanting to expand their base beyond an aging boomer brand to be a more hip, relevant brand.”

The ad campaign, however, might be giving too many messages at once, Dahlen said. “The problem with that is that you don’t take away the one thing they really want you to focus on,” he noted. “I have no idea what their one thing is.”

Jay Spenchian, Olive Garden’s executive vice president of marketing, said in an e-mail that these menu changes are "only the first phase of a significant menu transformation" planned for Olive Garden. “During the next year, we’ll continue to evolve our menu, and the changes we’re making will result in the most comprehensive transformation in the brand’s history,” he said.

Editor's Note: This article has been updated with additional commentary from Olive Garden executives.

Contact Erin Dostal at erin.dostal@penton.com.
Follow her on Twitter: @erindostal