Olive Garden Makeover Includes Updated Look, Steady Pricing

Friday, 01 Mar 2013 02:53 PM

By Alexandra Ward

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In an effort to fight dwindling sales, Olive Garden is about to undergo a major makeover that will seek to update its look and hold its prices steady, the chain restaurant's president announced Tuesday.

After recording a 1.2 percent drop in sales during the past fiscal year, Dave George, who took over as Olive Garden's president in January, told investors this week the chain is opting for a more "more relevant" look to draw in customers.

Olive Garden restaurants now feature an "Old-World Tuscan farmhouse" décor that debuted in 2000, but George said the stonework and wooden archways will be phased out, in favor of a more modern look.

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"We don't think the remodel process as it stands today, the work that was being done up until now, took the brand far enough," George said. "You're not going to see stainless steel showing up tomorrow in a Tuscan Farmhouse," but the look will be more relevant.

The plan also includes a new logo design.

The changes will take about a year to institute, according to Orlando-based Darden Restaurants, Olive Garden's parent company.

Other changes include smaller plate sizes with fewer calories, less expensive menu items, and new all-black uniforms. Keeping with other Darden establishments, like Red Lobster, Olive Garden will institute a 1 percent cap on annual menu price increases.

New offerings, placed on the menu in October, include a 420-calorie lasagna primavera with chicken, and a lunch calzone and sandwich combo that costs $6.95.

George also said Darden is scaling back its overall construction budget to between $600 million and $650 million this year.

Olive Garden operates 818 restaurant franchises.

Related stories:

Darden's Olive Garden, Red Lobster Take Obamacare Staff Cuts Off Menu

Michelle Obama Part of Olive Garden's Healthy Announcement

Darden Sees Need for 'Affordability' at Olive Garden

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