Foodservice Equipment Reports

Darden Unrolling $40M Olive Garden Makeover

During the next three years, 300 older-style Olive Garden outlets are targeted for the chain’s new Revitalia-style makeover featuring lighter fare and less cluttered interiors.

Two of Orlando-based Darden Restaurants’ remodeled Florida units will serve as templates for the 75 stores slated to get a more youthful, urban look in 2014. The price tag, at $500,000-$600,000 per store, is a $40 million undertaking that will transform the 800-plus Olive Garden restaurants in the U.S.

The updates are past due; many Olive Garden locations have had only minor updates over the past three decades. The first store to be updated, at Fort Walton Beach, Fla., earlier this year has seen sales tick up 2% since the redesign. The Winter Park, Fla., location, the second to get the updates, reopened late last month.

The new contemporary look starts with the logo, which has shifted from its signature grape cluster to an olive branch in a hue closer to lime green. Inside, diners will find a more prominent bar, marble countertops, overhead wood beams mimicking a pergola, atmospheric lighting and bench seating.

The kitchens, as at all existing Olive Gardens, will be churning out nearly two dozen new menu items that emphasize fresher, low-calorie options. The chain also has added online ordering for takeout.

The menu additions are the biggest change in the chain’s core menu since it was founded in 1982. Olive Garden is taking aim at competition from fast-casual chains, such as Chipotle, by keeping a number of menu options priced under $10.

Darden will be shedding Red Lobster soon in a $2.1 billion selloff, and Olive Garden will account for 60% of Darden’s sales.

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