A plan to revamp Olive Garden restaurants nationwide is getting its start in Texas.
Three Dallas area stores are among the nine "remodel locations" recently announced by the Italian-American restaurant chain. According to spokesperson Kristen Johnson, more than half of the chain's 700 stores will eventually be updated to reflect the new "Tuscan farmhouse" look.
Before and after photos posted online suggest the renovation isn't drastic: The lighting's warmer, and wheeled, upholstered chairs have been replaced by slat-backed wooden chairs (a change that might not be warmly embraced by never-ending pasta bowl eaters). Teal napkins have been subbed for white ones.
Other revamps, according to a press release, include Cypress trees out front, new front doors and freshly-painted walls. There are also new televisions in the bar "to enhance the entertainment value of the space."
A few locations have already been made-over, Drew Masden, president of parent company Darden, told Nation's Restaurant News.
"So far, the impact on brand perception and same-restaurant sales lift has been positive," Masden said.
Update: Just heard from Olive Garden media manager Heidi Schauer, who's back from the restaurant's culinary institute in Italy (apparently the chain's commercials which show its chefs studying sauce techniques in Tuscany are accurate.) Schauer explains Olive Garden's PR firm issued the remodel release in error during her absence: "It was premature," she says.
According to Schauer, the "after" photos the publicist posted were actually shot between the "before" and "after" phases: The teal napkins have since been replaced with gold napkins. And she's not ready to confirm how many restaurants will undergo remodeling. "We are currently testing these enhancements in a handful of restaurants in Texas," she says.
If readers would like to check out the new design, Schauer adds, Olive Garden's holding open houses with free food and wine at the following three locations on April 5-6 and April 12-13.
- 10280 E. Technology Blvd., Dallas
- 301 Highway 114 S. Access Road, Grapevine
- 8020 Bedford/Euless Road, North Richland Hills