Potential Reasons Florida's Olive Garden is Reportedly Losing Older Customers

L. Cane

Florida is home to Darden Restaurants, which is headquartered in Orlando. One of the best-known restaurants in its lineup is Olive Garden (although Darden also owns Longhorn Steakhouse and Cheddar Scratch Kitchen.) There are over 150 Olive Gardens in Florida.

Darden Admits It Is Seeing Less Business From Older Customers, and Mentions Olive Garden: In a recent earnings call in September of 2023, Darden's CEO, Ricardo Cardenas, admitted that the company is seeing less business coming from consumers who are 55 and up and more business coming from younger consumers.

Cardenas said that although they'd like to have the older customers come back, they're embracing the younger customers, telling CNN in part:

“We value all of our customers, including those over 65, and we’d love to see them come back more frequently. We can use our eClub to talk to them and say, ‘Hey, come back to Olive Garden.’ But I don’t think we’re going to do some dramatic things because we’ve actually seen a pretty big increase in our younger consumer.”

Potential Reasons For the Shift: Cardenas mentioned COVID as a reason for declining visits from older diners, but the cost could also be a factor.

A TripAdvisor reviewer of a Naples Olive Garden, wrote, in part:

"I love food and I'm not a picky eater but I do appreciate honest, decent food, priced accordingly. Considering that most of the ingredients for the menu offerings are salad-based or contain large quantities of pasta - neither of which are expensive in catering terms - I really feel that their prices are a good $4 - $8 over and above what they should be...Sorry Olive Garden, nice food but overpriced."

The Average Cost of Eating At Olive Garden: According to Statista reporting in September of 2023, the average bill at Olive Garden per person is $22.5.

Reporting in May of 2023, Restaurant To Me.com says that the average cost of eating at Olive Garden is $16-$22.

How To Save Money At Olive Garden: Although the above-mentioned average bill of over $22 appears pricey, some national publications say that you can save money when you eat at Olive Garden using the following tips:

Consider Lunch Instead: Olive Garden currently has a deal where they offer "lunch favorites" for $8.99. This is significantly cheaper than the dinner price of many fan favorites. The only catch is that you have to eat before 3 p.m.

Know They Offer Free Wine Tastings: According to Reader's Digest reporting in the spring of 2023, Olive Garden allows guests over 21 to sample any of their wines to see if they'd like to order a full glass.

Their Rewards App Offers Discounts and Freebies: Although not everyone embraces using apps, this one will save you some money. One offer is free appetizers when you order an entree and you're offered freebies on your birthday such as dessert.

If You Split the Bill, You Can Use Two Discount Offers: Olive Garden's E Club will keep you up to date on the latest discounts and offerings. Splitting the bill will sometimes allow you to double up if you have more than one offer.

Ask The Server To Box Up Half Your Meal Before It Arrives At Your Table: Most restaurants offer large portions that one person won't eat in one sitting. If you have half of your meal set aside "to go" before it even hits your table, you have two meals for the price of one and you won't be tempted to eat some of your second meal.

Look Out For The Never-Ending Pasta Bowl Coming Soon: Starting in late September of 2023, Olive Garden will offer a promotion where you can eat an unlimited mix of pasta and sauces for $13.99.

Watch Out For Buy One Take One: Olive Garden isn't currently running this special, but when they do, they offer you the chance to buy one entre and take another home for a discounted price. This special recently offered the "take home" meal at $6.

You Really Can Order Only Soup, Salad, and Breadsticks: Some people say that Olive Garden's salad and breadsticks are their favorite part of the meal. You can order this (along with soup) for $10.99.

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