The “big innovation, the big breakthrough” has been re-engineering the lunch menu to offer a full-service experience for the bargain price of $6.99, said Lee. The key was uncoupling Olive Garden’s signature promise of unlimited breadsticks, soup and salad to provide a choice instead of all three. Now guests can pick a sandwich or other lunch item and either the “bottomless” soup or salad.
“For $6.99, you can get an eggplant parmesan sandwich and all the soup or salad that you want,” Lee told financial analysts. Ditto for a meatball sandwich.
“That, to me, has been the biggest innovation in Olive Garden and has really changed the whole complexion of lunch,” said Lee.
Patrons who want a more elaborate meal have $7.99, $8.99 and $9.99 options, but the lunch menu has been recast to offer the four pricing options.