Olive Garden doubles down in an anti-carb world.
Yesterday, Olive Garden announced a new menu item, debuting on June 1st: Breadstick sandwiches. The restaurant will take one of their famous breadsticks, slice it in half, and jam some meatballs or chicken parm in between.
And in a glorious twist, just like all of the other menu items at Olive Garden, breadstick sandwiches some with a side of… unlimited breadsticks. That’s some next-level carbo loading action right there. That’s potato skins being served with a side of French fries. That’s a borderline gluten turducken.
I haven’t been to an Olive Garden in many years, but I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for the place. In college, we used to love taking advantage of their unlimited soup/salad/breadsticks/pasta offering. I had a friend who used to take his girlfriend to Olive Garden as a way to make up when she was really mad at him (if she was only sort of mad, he’d take her to Subway). I often find myself judging other restaurants by an arbitrary “hospitaliano” metric.
And they’ve had a rough run as of late. Last September, after years of declining sales, one of its top investors publicly (and deviously) released an honest-to-God manifesto on everything that was wrong with the chain. So much of it was breadstick-based bashing…
(1) It criticized servers for not sticking to the company policy of bringing out the correct number of breadsticks per basket, which is [total people at table] + 1.
(2) It noted that “management readily admits that after sitting just seven minutes, the breadsticks deteriorate in quality.”
(3) And most damning of all, it claimed the quality of the breadsticks had “deteriorated” and compared their taste to that of hot dog buns.
But that’s the past. Breadstick sandwiches with a side of breadsticks are the return, the comeback, the future. In this climate of backlash against processed carbs, wheat, bread, and overeating, Olive Garden is digging in its heels and doubling down on breadsticks. That takes some unlimited guts.
Fight the good fight, Olive Garden. I believe in you. Maybe not enough to eat 1,700 grams of carbohydrates in a sitting at one of your restaurants, but enough to write a blog post to modestly propose others do so. I hope that raises my hospitaliano rating to “pisan.”