In an effort to save money, the board of directors overseeing Olive Garden has decided to stop using carpet cleaning services — or at least not as often.
Consumerist.com reports that the heads of Darden Restaurants, Inc., the parent company that owns Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, and other chain restaurants, are squeezing every penny to keep costs down. Olive Garden, known for its Italian cuisine and endless breadsticks, has more than 800 restaurants with carpeting, and many of them shampoo their carpets several times a month. This practice has caught the attention of the board of directors, including Darden Restaurants, Inc.’s CEO Gene Lee.
“There’s a protocol that you clean carpets once a month,” Lee told investors during a conference call on June 23, according to Bloomberg Business. “If you do it more than that, you end up actually destroying the carpet — and there’s really not a whole lot of benefit there.” Carpet padding is usually 0.5 inches at most, and can be as thin as 0.25 inches. Thinner carpets — like the kind Olive Garden uses — hold in less debris.
The company has undergone sweeping changes over the last year. Last October, Lee was ushered in as CEO after investors removed the entire board of directors during a proxy fight. The investors were upset with falling profits, increasing debt, and what they considered to be poor management. As a result, Lee and the new management team have pulled “every single invoice” from the restaurants in order to comb over expenses large and small.
The board of directors have cut labor costs and other expenses in order to save up to $100 million a year. In addition, the company has announced it will convert its properties into a real estate investment trust, something it hopes will help reduce its debt by $1 billion.
Other cuts have been less substantial. Some investors, for example, expressed their distaste for Olive Garden’s salted pasta, which quickly rusts out pasta pans, and its endless breadsticks, which are seen as excessive.
“We’re finding things that have creeped in over the years that we’re able to take out,” Lee said.