Olive Garden's secrets


From the link:

Starboard released a scathing 300-page PowerPoint presentation detailing
the perceived systematic failings of Darden’s leadership. The report
attacked Darden for throwing away money on ineffective ad campaigns,
wasting food, and trying to rebrand shoddy dishes in favor of scrapping
or reformulating them.

the future may be bright for Olive Garden. Starboard is well positioned to get the restaurant chain back on track

The future is actually very dim. Starboard doesn’t give a rat’s bum about food quality at Olive Garden, they lust after selling off Olive Garden’s real estate assets to make quick profits at the expense of the financial solvency of the restaurant. The author of the link seems to, at the very least, have been reeled in hook, line and sinker by Starbord.


Skeptic is 100% correct, corporate raiders plunder the real estate, pension, and usually also do swaps on any other value or equity before torpedoing the corporation and collecting the insurance.


Surprised this wasn’t already linked. Maybe it was and I missed it.

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Linked article is a great example of how short our memory really is. When the Olive Garden report came out, it was widely reported what the real motive for the release was, a greedy money grab.

And now this clown is welcoming the new management like saviors.

Wake the hell up, people. Olive Garden is no great loss but at least pretend like you’re not a pawn for the wealthy.

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That video is actually an unfortunate incident of John Oliver and his show falling for corporate raider propaganda disguised as the concerns of an “activist hedge fund.” They really ought to retract the video or update it.


I enjoyed this article by (I think) the same writer. https://medium.com/the-spaghetti-incident/carb-induced-self-reflection-8e9838032cfc

Made me think of Eating 30 Pancakes - Review - Comedy Central: http://youtu.be/51QBJpiy7CA

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That should tell you something right there in the title, Oliver getting trolled made me sad too over the unfortunate fact that he helped a money scam with free publicity.


What’s up with the whole “unsalted pasta water” part of the freakout anyway?

Salting the water that pasta boils in makes no sense. The folk mythology of salt lowering the boiling point of water is something that has zero detectable effect at the sort of concentrations, temperatures, and pressures used.

As for salting the pasta itself, why place it in the water, when the vast majority of it will be directly discarded, or will actually corrode the pans (a reasonable enough thing to be worried about in a national chain which will use tons of cookware). Why not salt the final dishes, or possibly even ask grown adults to take some responsibility for what they shovel under their noses and season their own food.

And as for the comment that unsalted pasta “tastes like water”, that’s probably down to the the chain thinking that al dente is one of Frank Sinatra’s backing musicians. Or perhaps the author’s palate is so desensitised that he discards as bland anything that exerts a lower osmotic pressure than seawater?

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Aren’t most hedge funds activist? For instance

“Thailand pegs the baht at 25 to the dollar. If we had a shedload of capital, we could massively short the Baht, and cause the Thai central Bank to run out of the funds that would be needed to support the peg. They withdraw the support, the Baht plummets, and we make a lot of money in the process”.

But without that capitalization, the fund never has enough money to leverage its position into a market changing position.

As for salting the pasta itself, why place it in the water, when the vast majority of it will be directly discarded, or will actually corrode the pans (a reasonable enough thing to be worried about in a national chain which will use tons of cookware).

It’s absorbed by the pasta during the cooking process.


Cooking experts disagree. See below.

The mythology is totally wrong, if only because salt content INCREASES the boiling point. And negligibly, to boot.

The salted pasta allows for lowering salt content in the sauce without unpalatable results.

See here:

and here:


I’m with the cat. All my sauces are highly seasoned miracles that would be good even on Wonder Bread. I don’t need my noods to be tasty - my puttanesca takes care of that. Plus, why add sodium when the sauce already causes strokes?

Ironically, Olive Garden also had an olive policy, or it did when I worked there in the 90’s. One black, pitted olive per person in the communal salad bowl. No extras in the communal salad bowl. Extras must be requested and served in a ramekin. The Olive Garden also served only black, pitted olives. Why, I have always wondered, call yourself the Olive Garden if you do not have any olives?


I actually read through their slide deck, and I’ve largely bought it, too. For a long term investment, you want a company that is pleasing its customers… because without them forking over money, you don’t have a business. The majority of the deck was a win for shareholders and a win for customers.

I’ll give you their proposal to sell off the property and rent it back. That doesn’t make sense to me. It might be an awful idea. It might make sense. I’m not an expert on real estate. I’ll even give you the salting the pasta–but I’m probably not the right person to ask, because I don’t add salt to anything.

Limiting the breadsticks to the number of customers plus one makes sense. They’re still unlimited. But they figure they’re the best quality while warm, and, it should encourage servers to visit the table more. I’m sure if you ask for a specific (but reasonable) amount of breadsticks, they’d bring them anyway… but why bring breadsticks to the table if they’re just going to end up in the trash?

Some other proposals they had:

  • Stop buying custom order straws, paper products, and to-go containers. The custom versions that they use are expensive, and Darden apparently spends significantly more than their competitors.

  • Buy more pre-prepped food (ie. diced onions or soups), less custom order food, and work with the supply chain to sync their specials with commodity prices (which apparently they don’t do… if you’re running a special on a shrimp entree, and it’s in the season where its most expensive… you’re doing something wrong).

  • Increase alcohol sales. For an Italian joint, they don’t sell a lot of wine. Alcohol is high margin.

  • Reduce levels of management. They claim there are too many levels of management between the top and the stores.

I don’t expect you to take my word for it. The slides are out there on the internet, and they’re very compelling.

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I think you are making a mistake taking the report at face value.With Starboard’s track record, what you have is succesuful propaganda used to change the board out in Starboard’s favor so that they can turn the short term profit suction pump on full and suck all the value of the company into the pockets of hedge fund cronies.

They want to invest because they think they can increase the value of the company by making changes (many of which seem like common sense, many of which should result in a better experience for customers). That’s the point. That’s good business.

Their plan is public. You can read it yourself. Or you can just ignore their very public plan and assume they’re using yours.

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