Over the past year, Darden has been implementing far-reaching improvements for all elements of the Olive Garden business to reignite traffic growth and support margin expansion.
Key initiatives have included enhancing culinary operations and service, introducing a core menu innovation, pursuing a new approach to advertising and promotions, and launching a re-imaging program.
The Olive Garden Brand Renaissance is beginning to deliver positive results and reinforces the Company's confidence in the brand's ongoing development.
- Guest experience and satisfaction scores are improving across the system, including Overall, Attentiveness, Pace of Meal, and Food Taste, as a result of an intensified focus on service and food quality. Darden expects these to translate into higher traffic trends over time.
- Online ordering, including a redesigned web experience and the national launch of an online To-Go platform, is underway and strengthening the take-out business. In the first quarter of fiscal 2015, Darden achieved a 13 percent increase in Olive Garden's take-out business compared to the first quarter last year. Notably, check averages from online orders are significantly higher than those placed on the phone, which represents a margin growth driver should these trends continue.
- Testing of tablet technology in several restaurants is underway and has generated encouraging results, including check growth due to an increase in add-on sales, increased table turns, a 60 percent pay-at-the-table rate and increased guest survey response rates, as well as an increase in tip percentage for servers.
- Initial sales results from a pilot remodel program are encouraging. The company has completed three remodels that reflect significant interior and exterior changes. This has resulted in a more than 10 percent increase in traffic on average in the remodeled restaurants as guests respond to the changes.