Olive Garden: Success or Failure?

The restaurant industry has been struggling over the last couple of years and Olive Garden is no exception. Darden Restaurants, which owns Olive Garden, has been accused of bad management and distasteful food (Smith). In chapter one, we have learned in class about ten strategic decisions of operations management. Olive Garden has neglected most of these strategies.

The strategic decisions are as follows:

  •   Design of goods and services
  •  Managing quality
  •   Process and capacity design
  •  Location strategy
  •  Layout strategy
  •  Human resources and job design
  •   Supply-chain management
  •   Inventory management
  •   Scheduling
  •  Maintenance

One article that I read on CNN.com, proves that Olive Garden has neglected the first two strategic decisions by not defining the requirements of operations and neglecting customer’s expectations. Olive Garden’s food has been deteriorating in quality and critics say that “there are too many preservatives and artificial ingredients”. Olive Garden failed to provide higher quality to customers, hence why the company’s stock decreased by five percent this year.

Furthermore, Olive Garden lacked in its Location Strategy as well. Due to its low sales, Red Lobster was replacing Olive Garden, making the restaurant chain far from its customers. Not to mention that Olive Garden continued to raise its prices. It is evident that Olive Garden has not considered costs and other logistics.

Although I have never worked at Olive Garden, my sister has said that within the last year, the environment, food and service has changed tremendously. When my sister was first hired, they looked for employees that were motivated and had previous customer service experience. Now, many employees have quit because the company was unable to integrate each employees schedule with the demand that was needed on a specific day.  For example, on Saturdays they would be shorthanded, while on a weekday, there would be too many waiters working and shift was not evenly disbursed. This shows that Olive Garden’s Layout and Human Resource and Job Design Strategy was inconsistent because the company was not able to keep their qualified employees nor keep the “flow of personnel and information” steady. Furthermore, as the year continued, their inventory management was organized. My sister told me that there would be a surplus amount of breadsticks available for consumers, but when it came to certain entrees or desserts, the restaurant would be out of that particular product for weeks at a time.

Olive Garden is an example of another company that was successful a few years ago, but by not following the ten strategic decisions, the company’s consumer base, food quality and service decreased. Now, knowing some of the personal experience of working at the restaurant and what critics have written about Olive Garden, do you think that its operations is running smoothly? If so, why? In addition, if not, how do you think the restaurant can improve?





9 thoughts on “Olive Garden: Success or Failure?

  1. Your writing made me think about what it takes to make a good restaurant. Similar to most businesses models, quality is always very important. Though fast food companies can get away with it sometimes, all in all, people appreciate quality. Quality means that there is effort, and there is a high standard to deliver. Olive Garden does not seem like their operations are running smoothly if their problems seem to be largely internal with low quality food and management problems.

    I think the restaurant can improve by changing their recipes to recipes recommended by Italian chefs and make better use of management information systems to keep track of employee hours. If I was really serious, I would shut down all Olive Gardens for a week, then reopen Olive Garden.

  2. Great Post! I haven’t been to Olive Garden in years so I’m not sure of the quality of food that they serve now, but I remember when Olive Garden was the place to go on a Sunday afternoon with your family or just for a nice dinner. One way that Olive Garden can improve is by offering healthier choices. Nowadays people want to eat healthy or believe that they are eating healthy. Another way could be by placing some of their locations where a high population of families live at, because the only two Olive Graden restaurant that come to mind are located far in the south or west suburbs.

  3. I completely agree that Olive Garden has decreased in quality. I used to go to Olive Garden with my family all the time and we loved it. The last few times we’ve been there we’ve noticed that it’s nothing like it used to be and as a result my family had stopped going there. This is exactly why they stopped doing well. Loyal customers noticed a negative change in the company. The solution to this would be to better the quality of the food as well keep up with the inventory. By not keeping up with inventory many customers leave unsatisfied. It seems that whoever is in charge of hiring didn’t think things through and now there is an issue with clashing schedules. Since this is management’s fault, the only solution I see is to require employees to evenly switch off certain shifts and whoever could make it work would stay and those who couldn’t would have to leave the company.

  4. This post made me think about how I have personally witnessed Olive Garden decrease in customer service and quality. From recent experience I can say that I believe Olive Garden is trying to re-invent themselves. They have improved their past recipes and added almost an entirely new menu. I hope to see Olive Garden regain themselves because it was one of my favorite lunch spots.

  5. Olive Garden is a great example of how operations can have an enormous impact on the profitability and longevity of a business. Just a few years ago, Olive Garden was a place that many Americans frequented, yet with Darden Restaurants’ recent missteps, they have seen a huge loss in their stock price and customer satisfaction. I think that you highlighted some of the key issues that Olive Garden has been making, especially with your sister’s experience. It is clear that not only is Olive Garden in trouble for its use of artificial ingredients, they are also having issues with the management of servers’ schedules and with inventory management, two imperative parts to running a successful restaurant. If Olive Garden is to ever regain its former glory, they should definitely change their current methods and take a page out of Walgreen’s book and employ a successful inventory system along with a comprehensive work schedule system.

  6. Good post! Olive garden has certainly not had its operations running smoothly. According to the facts described, quality and timeliness are some of the company’s most deficient areas. If Olive garden wants to improve their service and keep surviving as a business they are going to have to re-structure their operations management tasks. Some ways in which they can improve the quality of their service is by reaching out to suppliers with higher quality goods. They can also assign people to do research to see what items on their menu have higher demand, and either switch or remove the ones with low-demand so they can satisfy more customers.

  7. Great post! Made me rethink how i feel about Olive Garden and most of the things you mentioned I was completely unaware of. The staffing issue was something I noticed. There would be times when my family went there to eat in the middle of them changing shifts and we felt as is the service was terrible because the new waiter would take longer to get us as if he/she didn’t know we were there waiting for our drinks or food. Management should definitely be aware of the way they set up shift changes and staff availability. The quality of the food is another big thing because I feel that Olive Garden tries to make its image as a somewhat “fancy” restaurant yet the quality of the food doesn’t match up with that. Maybe if the operations management team would consider remodeling the system then they might get better?

  8. I can say that I have been to Olive Garden once in my life. However, my friends are crazy about the place since they offer bottomless bread and soup. Now being aware of their problems in management, it makes me fearful for their continuing failure in the food industry. I came to know the restaurant as a money saver rather than for its quality and service. Especially with their decline in sales and offer for soups and bread, the decline in restaurant sales may keep declining. If managers take control to past strategies of the company that lead to their success, maybe Olive Garden will be able to climb back up the ladder.

  9. I remember all my friends would use rave about Olive Garden a few years ago. But I recently visited one for the first time and left dissatisfied myself. The quality of their food was poor and unpleasant. It does not surprise me that sales have gone down. Hopefully Olive Garden can make a come back!

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