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Apparently Olive Garden is for rich people ...

... and Red Lobster is, well, not.


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  1. So, ya think people who want seafood know better, but people who want Italian don't?
    Just asking.

    20 Replies
    1. re: kitchengardengal

      So you are assuming Red Lobster serves "seafood" and that Olive Garden serves "Eye-Tal-Lee-In"?

      Just asking.

      1. re: ipsedixit

        Never assume.
        I can guess all day, though. My question is, do people with money know better than to expect good seafood at RL, but they don't know a fake EyTalLeeIn restaurant from a real one?

        1. re: kitchengardengal

          Seriously, I dunno.

          But it is a rather quixotic finding by the company, wouldn't you say?

          1. re: ipsedixit

            Oh, great. Now I have to go to bed with 'quixotic' rolling around in my head... Well, it's better than that Christmas song that Paul McCartney did that's been driving me batty for the last two weeks. Fortunately I've purged it from my mind. Unfortunately, Quixote and quixotic have taken its place. Thanks. :-P

            1. re: kitchengardengal

              Simply having a wonderful Christmas time...simply having a wonderful Christmas time...simply having a wonderful Christmas time....

              (((evil laugh)))

              1. re: kitchengardengal

                Hey...that's my favorite Christmas song!
                Sorry, that is all I have to add to this matter.

                1. re: kitchengardengal

                  Gah! Hate that song. It's like he retroactively went back in time and unwrote all his Beatles songs, swallowed a synthesizer and a bunch of tinsel, then shat out the worst Christmas song ever.


                2. re: ipsedixit

                  I'm curious, how is Darden studying the demographics of its customers "quixotic"?

                  1. re: carolinadawg

                    Not the fact that Darden is studying its demographics, but the results that are quixotic.

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      I still don't get it...how is the fact that OG patrons have a higher incomes that RL patrons quixotic? Quixotic means "exceedingly idealistic, unrealistic and impractical". We're simply talking about survey data here...

                      1. re: carolinadawg

                        The fact that the company thinks, or rather interprets that data in such a fashion makes it rather idealistic -- i.e., that they can pigeonhole a specific demographic for each of their respective restaurants and then jettison those that do not fit their desired corporate profile and portfolio.

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          Hmm, ok. Sounds like basic market research to me.

                3. re: kitchengardengal

                  It kind of makes sense though. Imagine if you're a couple in suburbia that makes a household income of $185,000. If you've been trying to cut back the last few years during the recession, I can see going to Olive Garden for a much cheaper Italian meal with leftovers versus going somewhere else for Italian and paying $80. You start to save the $80 restaurant for a special treat every 3 -5 months and Olive Garden gets your money the rest of the time you're craving lasagna and garlic bread.

                  1. re: cornedhash

                    Regardless of the authenticity of the food, I'm having a problem imagining that if I made $185k, that I would need to worry about that $80 meal.
                    If I can't swing an $80 dinner once a week, I need some financial advice.

                    1. re: kitchengardengal

                      $80 once a week for let's say 36 weeks a year comes out to $2880 on Italian dinners alone. Even if you make $185K, that's a lot of money just to spend on one type of cuisine not even counting pizza or your lunches out. You'll be broke in no time and living above your means.

                      1. re: cornedhash

                        We make about 100,000 between is and my husband alone spends 24,000 not hundred per year on food. We have no credit cArd debt but a mortgage and two cars Nd still find money to invest.

                        Not broke over here!

                    2. re: cornedhash

                      "I can see going to Olive Garden for a much cheaper Italian meal"

                      That's quite a paradox.

                      Olive Garden ...... Italian meal...... ?

                      1. re: cornedhash

                        "and Olive Garden gets your money the rest of the time you're craving lasagna and garlic bread"

                        If that's the case, why not just get a frozen lasagna from the grocer to get similar quality at a real savings. Better yet, get a superior quality lasagna from the grocer deli and still save money while having something of decent quality.

                        1. re: Clams047

                          Some people may not want to do that. They may want to be served and not have to do anything in their kitchen. I'm not going to begrudge them that. I don't have a hatred of The Olive Garden burning with the fire of a thousands suns like you and other Chowhounders seem to have. I've only been there once and that was probably 15 years ago. I honestly don't remember what it tastes like but I could see people enjoying some stuff no matter what their reasons. I couldn't care less about it some ways because I acknowledge it's the only option some places have for Italian(-American) food.

                          So it goes.

                4. It really just shows that people who eat at Olive Garden lie about what they make on surveys and Darden believes them. Unless they are getting a bunch of people paying the Black Amex at OG.

                  1. About once a year or so, I end up at Olive Garden for a family get-together, a birthday, or something else I've been invited to, and it's always sort of bizarre; folks will choose it because "it's a decent place that's not too expensive", but wow, it's actually pretty expensive. Why a very mediocre chain Italian place is pricier than a lot of very nice restaurants serving far better food -- and why there are always lines out the door -- never fails to confuse me.

                    Red Lobster? Everyone I know who goes there says "I go there for the cheesy biscuits."

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Boston_Otter

                      The last time I was in WM they had boxed RL cheddar bay biscuit mix for sale. Just add water, cheddar and butter...

                      1. re: Boston_Otter

                        That was my reaction last time I went there. My son wanted to try it for his birthday - he had never been. But my boys eat a lot of food, so I thought it might be a cheap alternative. Not so. My mediocre salmon with overcooked broccoli was well over $20. Not worth it. But i can't eat the breadsticks. I don't hate the restaurant, but where I live you can do a lot better for the price.

                      2. Looks like Olive Garden should change their theme song to the old "The Jefferson's" theme song.


                        "We finally got a piece of the pizza pie" !!
                        (yes I know Olive Garden doesn't serve pizza, just laugh and move on)

                        1 Reply
                        1. Product lines across different income levels is good business. Porsche and Volkswagen, for example, same ownership.
                          Red Lobster must be a bow wow if Darden wants to cut it loose. I personally don't patronize RL for their practices in the past of harvesting lobsters in the Caribbean by spraying bleach in lobsters eyes in coral crags and scarring many miles of reefs off Belize and Honduras.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Veggo

                            Barrington Capital owns 2% of Darden and is pushing them to sell off OG and RL because they are growing more slowly, or not all, than Darden's other concepts. More here:


                            1. re: carolinadawg

                              Hard to grow when you glut the market. We have more than one of these concepts in our area but none of some of the other chains.

                          2. I did not see a dollar figure given to define "rich".

                            No one that I know eats at either place.

                            1. My theory: Bad Italian food is better than bad seafood. At the same pricepoint with the two restaurants sitting next to each other, I'd pull into OG. I can find SOMETHING to eat there. As someone who spends a lot eating out each year, I'm much more likely to splurge on quality seafood, meaning I will not do cheap, frozen, poorly prepared seafood. I'll also spend a lot on good Italian but I'm also more likely to eat cheap Italian because it's simply better than cheap seafood.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: bobbert

                                In an areA where seafood is limited RL is better quality than areas where seafood is decent. Not comparing the good places to RL but rather RL to RL. I can get something fairly decent if I stick to certain menu items only.

                                OG in the other hand seems to be terrible everywhere.

                                Plus OG has wait times over two hours in our area. For my money if I'm eating chain Italian food I'll be at Carrabbas or Macaroni Grill.

                              2. Red Lobster seems more willing to locate in areas with lower per capita incomes and the only other option for (even a shadow of dine-in, as in, not just a bench) seafood is Long John Silver's

                                is it great? of course not, but is it it basic and reliable? just slow and steady. as a non-dining investor my money would be with RL.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: hill food

                                  There are only 4 surviving Red Lobster lications here in Connecticut (why anyone would want plastic seafood when we're a coastal state, I don't understand). Two are in large cities with a poor population, two are in working class towns near poor large cities.
                                  There are 8 surviving Olive Garden locations. Two in cities with poor populations. The other 6 are in lower middle class suburbs in major shopping center districts. None that were in towns or cities with major Italian-American populations survive more than a few years.

                                  Red Lobster issues a ton of coupons to drive business, Olive Garden advertises 'low priced' lunches.

                                  Neither will get my business.

                                  1. re: bagelman01

                                    Thanks, Bagelman. Deal me out also.

                                    1. re: bagelman01

                                      Couldn't agree more. Super fresh high quality seafood is not cheap, even at the wholesale level, with most wild caught fish starting at $8.00 lb & and wild caught shell fish starting at $10.00 lb. , with prices going up substantially for high end products. Non of these products need heavy spice, breading or sauces and you won't find them at a RL.

                                      What you will find at RL are the cheapest products within a given category, which is exactly what your paying for. If you want the good stuff, double or even triple the menu price. There are many types of food I like that are made with lower end ingredients. Seafood is not one of them.

                                      1. re: bagelman01

                                        With the Seafood Nd Italiam food in CT I'm surprised there are that many.

                                        I grew up in CT and Md. Never heard of either one until we moved to MD. Didn't eat at either one until I was in college in PA.

                                        Ate at RL once in MD and it was deplorable. In the part of PA where I live and there is no seafood, we will go a few ties a year and it is passable. Only the most basic food do I eat. Steamed lobster or grilled lobster shrimp and scallops. The shrimp are embarrassing though.

                                        OG is vile. Gummy, flavorless salt bombs. The wait time can be more than two hours and it is just awful. I have been maybe four times in 12 years and tht was always at te requests of others.

                                    2. I grew up in an olive orchard in Northern California, and every time I see the name Olive Garden I think it is very odd. We called ours an orchard, never a garden. I guess as an alternative to fast food, OG may have some merit. But I could never imagine going there.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Tripeler

                                        If others insist we will, but there is no anticipation like there is with the great mom/pop's we frequent.

                                        1. re: Tripeler

                                          If you haven't at least perused this thread http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/837787 then it's probably worth looking at as it's an interesting read and may give you some "food for thought"...

                                        2. I'm rich! Hot DOG!

                                          I've never been to Olive Garden or Red Lobster, but both parking lots are freakishly packed anytime I drive by.

                                          Not having been isn't because I'm a snob, but because I've been lucky to avoid them. I do frequent Chili's every couple of months because my nephew likes their ribs. I'll get their Southwestern Egg Rolls.

                                          There, I said it. Chili's doesnt bother me so much. Now I'll skulk off as a loser.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: KrumTx

                                            I think Chili's burgers are pretty good.