Schadenfreude in the Olive Garden

The internet’s abuzz with witticisms and wry critique of Olive Garden’s recent rebranding efforts, including a logo redesign and menu face-lift.  We’re here to offer our own two cents, and in the best of spirits, kick the Garden while it’s down.  Because it’s just thatbad.

OG’s “brand renaissance” is coming on the heels of a consistent decrease in traffic and sales – according to Business Insider, traffic plunged 13% alone last December – and seems like too little, too late for the ailing chain, particularly because the hullabaloo is primarily cosmetic.


As some have noted, Olive Garden’s outdated previous logo – launched in 1998 – served its purpose quite well.  When people entered a Garden, they knew what they were going to get – bad pasta and loads of free bread sticks – and the chain sat comfortably at the back of everyone’s minds, save for the occasional office party or devotee’s birthday celebration, where it remained relatively free from scrutiny under the stipulation that it never was to take itself seriously.

While drawing a healthy helping of negative attention, the redesign has attempted to resituate the brand on the market by increasing consumer expectation in multiple capacities.  Wrong move, particularly when the chain’s food quality is sure to remain the same.  But what is changing?


Again, the Garden’s new logo is taking center stage.  The ashen redesign is flatter and more contemporary while still attempting the warmth of the original, but as many pundits have noted, it falls flat on its face.  No more can really be said, at this point, about what makes it just that bad, but we’d like to add we find it strangely reminiscent of the Golden Corral’s logo – maybe not in the way of typeface or color palette, but in the prominence of its font, with one line slightly indented as if in some last-ditch attempt to offer any visual cache whatsoever.


Other changes on the docket include decrease in both prices and the size of plates, though it remains to be seen whether portion sizes themselves will shrink as well, an industry no-no for any restaurant, but particularly for a ‘casual,’ family-oriented establishment that churns covers because of its ‘value.’  Each location will also receive a physical make-over, shifting interiors from a homey, family-style mood to one slightly more nouveau italiano.

While the OG will be adding some new dishes – and, counter-intuitively, excising several menu favorites – it’s odd they aren’t attempting high-profile cross-branding as a quick fix to boost themselves out of a rut.  That is, taking in a celebrity chef could have been a good move because, after all, what’s a “brand renaissance” without remaking the brand cornerstone – dish quality?  But they didn’t play that card, and it’s too late to now regardless.

Ok, we feel kind of bad now.

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