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Olive Garden plans another riff on its breadsticks

Olive Garden isn't finished dreaming up new ways to use its breadsticks.

The Italian restaurant chain said earlier this month it would introduce "breadstick sandwiches" as part of a broader menu revamp intended to play up its most popular offerings. The sandwiches don't arrive until June 1, but Olive Garden already has a follow-up act planned with "breadstick crostini" in August.

The "breadstick crostini" — or toasted bread — will be sliced and used as part of an appetizer, said Jose Duenas, Olive Garden's executive vice president of marketing.

"The flavor profile of the breadstick is powerful," Duenas said in an interview.

Olive Garden, which is owned by Darden Restaurants Inc., has been fighting to hold onto customers as competition has intensified from rivals that are seen as quicker, more affordable and more in line with changing tastes.

To win back diners, the chain has tried to modernize its image by ditching its long-running TV ads evoking Old World charm and adding menu items to offer greater variety. Now under new management, Olive Garden says it wants to focus on the things it does best, rather than chase trends.

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