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?





Field Project Audit – Wings for Kidneys!

Project Description

Our team partnered with the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois (NKFI) to raise awareness for kidney disease and the patients and families affected by the illness. We chose to host our event at a local Buffalo Wild Wings through their Eat Wings, Raise Funds program. By using this program, the restaurant donated 10% of all pre-taxed food sales for diners that turned in a voucher supporting the charity. Our team was present at the restaurant on Friday, August 1st, from 5:30pm to 8:30pm to provide literature on the NKFI.

Since the event depended on bringing people into the restaurant, our team distributed vouchers within the Schaumburg community through two channels: printed flyers (including a QR code to drive viewers to our online site) and online networking sites, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as personal email messages to family and friends. We also setup an online donation page via EventBrite to capture funds from people that couldn’t make it out to the restaurant on the day of our event.

Wings for Kidneys team
Our Wings for Kidneys team in front of the Buffalo Wild Wings


Wings for Kidneys flyer
Printed flyer we created for the Wings for Kidneys event

Project Objectives and Methodologies

Objective 1: Raise awareness for Kidney Disease.
Objective 2: Provide a financial contribution to the NKFI.
Objective 3: Gain applicable experience in project management techniques.

In our project proposal we brainstormed ways to raise awareness for the NKFI including: (1) passing out literature to interested parties, and (2) promoting the foundation and the event through social media. Looking back on the project, we were able to accomplish the both our  objectives and feel confident that we reached individuals who were not aware of this foundation. In fact, we received a fair amount of questions regarding what the charity does and how they support those with kidney disease.

Our best case scenario for the fundraiser was $975 and worst case was $300. We based these numbers on weekly sales reported by Buffalo Wild Wings and the average amount of foot traffic an urban location gets during the week. After tallying our revenue streams including Buffalo Wild Wings vouchers, donor checks, and Eventbrite donations, we passed our worst case scenario with a final tally of $400.00. However, we do not consider the Eat Wings, Raise Funds event alone to be a success as we had quite a low turnout of diners with vouchers at Buffalo Wild Wings. The Eat Wings, Raise Funds event generated only $60.00 (from $600 worth of dining checks) whereas our online campaign through EventBrite and check donors generated $340.00.

Participating in this field project enabled us to get hands on experience with the project management techniques covered in class. Since none of us had planned a fundraiser before, these techniques became extremely important in breaking down the project into manageable pieces. Some of the techniques we applied were the work breakdown structure (WBS), Gantt chart, and risk management plan. The WBS helped to organize project ideas and assign responsibility to different parties whereas the Gantt chart allowed us to see where multiple deliverables overlapped, including dependencies throughout the project. In addition, the identification of risks helped to mitigate issues that could have caught us off guard if we didn’t plan ahead of time. As mentioned above, we had a low turnout at the event but were able to recover funds by driving more traffic through our online donations.

Advice for Future Teams

  • Charity Selection: Pick a charity that a member of the team has a strong connection with or has dealt with in the past. In addition, it is really important that once you have identified a charity, to ensure there is good support from the charity. The charity that we choose was hesitant to provide support for any 3rd party events, therefore it was difficult to have access to their marketing materials, email distribution, social media channels, or even to receive branded marketing materials to spread the word about the charity.
  • Venue: If you choose to host an event at a restaurant, make sure that they are committed to the cause you are working to support, instead of treating the charity as just another sales channel. Although Buffalo Wild Wings allowed us to host our event on-site and donated a portion of their revenue to the charity, there wasn’t a strong connection with their management team. When we arrived on the day of the event the manager stopped by once and the servers seemed more concern about losing one of their tables (for us to place our NKFI literature) than learning about our fundraiser. Furthermore, Buffalo Wild Wings is very sensitive about soliciting and we were unable to walk around or greet people in support of the charity.
  • Demographics: Understand the demographics that you want to target. We chose the Schaumburg location thinking we would get a lot of attention from the surrounding mall community, but because of the younger demographic there appeared to be a lack of connection to the NKFI mission. Actually a large portion of diners were teenagers and families with young children. Perhaps a charity with an educational focus rather than a health focus would have allowed us to draw in people to our table.

Lessons Learned

What may appear to be a small project can still accumulate a lot of responsibilities, especially with a small team where multiple people have to matrix across responsibilities. Having good teamwork and collaboration can prevent some of these obstacles. Our team was able to balance project management responsibilities by each taking lead in a particular area and serving support on other tasks when needed.

Controlling scope creep is a popular topic in project management, but a lesson we learned is keeping too narrow of a focus can also be a problem. In our team we identified a charity and venue but chose to focus on one restaurant location. Looking back, we feel that we could have targeted multiple locations to make the event more successful. We each live in different parts of the Chicagoland area and could have better leveraged connections within our neighborhood communities.

Finally, the WBS was an excellent resource for adding structure and resource allocation to the planning session. While we stuck to our plan and coordinated tasks well, we could have referred back to the WBS and Gantt chart during implementation to track our progress rather than treating them as archived documents.

Wings for Kidneys collage of photos
A collage of photos from our preparations and participation in the event