Darden sells Red Lobster to experiment with olives at Olive Garden

I don’t think it’s just the rise of Chipotle type fast casual segment that is killing Darden’s biggest concepts.  Today Bloomberg/Businessweek reports Darden “Chief Executive Officer Clarence Otis says it [the Red Lobster sale] will help the company focus on turning around the Olive Garden chain, its largest revenue generator.”

Bloomberg adds at Olive Garden “the chain’s chefs are currently trying to latch on to newer trends in food and experimenting with ingredients such as polenta, capers and olives.”  New trends! Olives.  At Olive Garden.  OK now you know the biggest problem over there, which selling real estate will not solve.

How about building beverage business, the most profitable segment at most establishments?  What about atmosphere and music focus and updating?  Redefining customer engagement using new tech?  New day parts?  A sports bar component like Applebees?  Challenging ideas but sure beats “hey let’s take a look at olives!”

Or how about taking the world class resources of a giant company like Darden and flipping the entire chain to something new and more contemporary?  Darden has been one of the best in the business over decades.  I’m sure they could do it with an infusion of new energy, ideas and some new team members.  Most of their locations are still in prime areas.

Darden is way better than its current approach of “sell half the empire and tinker with the rest.”

Red Flag. The cheddar biscuits at Red Lobster outsell the seafood.


Thanks to Bloomberg/Business week and Lindsey Rupp in New York.




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