Olive Garden: Breadstick Policy Is 'Italian Generosity'

Company defends itself against investor manifesto
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 16, 2014 3:54 AM CDT
Patrons enter an Olive Garden Restaurant in Short Pump, Va.   (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

(Newser) – Olive Garden has fired back in the battle of the breadsticks. The Florida-based chain's parent company says the unlimited breadstick policy—one of many things criticized by hedge fund Starboard Value—is an example of "Italian generosity." In its response to Starboard's 300-page criticism, Darden Restaurants says the salads Starboard slams for being overfilled and overdressed are a big hit that inspires loyalty in customers, and says implementing the investor's suggestions would "undermine progress that is improving both food quality and guest experience," Fortune reports.

The 24-page report filed with the SEC says a major menu revamp is underway and things like ordering via tabletop tablets are in the works, although it doesn't address some of Starboard's criticisms, including: "How does the largest Italian dining concept in the world not salt the water for pasta?" Starboard—which holds 8.8% of Darden—is trying to gain control of the parent company and will try to replace its entire 12-person board of directors at the company's annual meeting next month, the AP reports.

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