Olive Garden Leaves a Bad Taste

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Olive Garden recently announced (cue the trumpets) a “Brand Renaissance” to lift lagging sales in their restaurants around the country. A “renaissance” sounds pretty impressive, vcialis 40mg right? Not only are they sporting a redesigned logo, but they also promise to focus on fresher ingredients and smaller plates, newly remodeled interiors and “a complete dining experience that is casual, yet stylish, creating an atmosphere that promotes togetherness, nurtures relationships and welcomes sharing.” Okaaay.

In case you hadn’t heard, Olive Garden is the leading casual dining brand and the #1 Italian full-service concept restaurant in the United States. It is a subsidiary of Darden Restaurants, Inc., which is headquartered in unincorporated Orange County, Florida, near Orlando. [source: Wikipedia]

There are those who enjoy eating at Olive Garden, and those who can’t stomach it. Their food is a whole other discussion. What I’m talking about here is the brand, the message, the packaging they are presenting to the world. Is it honest? Is it attractive? Is it enticing? And, more important to its share holders: can it reverse it’s lagging sales and regain momentum among casual diners? Here is their old logo (left) and new:

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Their new logo was created by Lippincott, “a nationally recognized design firm, that started with the modified brand positioning as the foundation for initial creative design, followed by qualitative research to further shape the design, then validated based on quantitative research to confirm the final design.” Got all that?
Based on the design aethetic of the new logo, I will venture to say…not likely. The first thing that struck me was the hideous typography, as near as I can tell based on the Coquette font. The next thing that disturbed me was the grape/olive branch, looking like it was pulled from some ancient clip art CD. Lastly, I wondered why their new tagline was positioned so far away from the logo? The whole thing is embarrassingly amateurish, which is hard to understand considering it was Lippincott who was behind the wheel on this. Maybe they let an intern do it? It’s neither well imagined nor executed. It’s a mess. It’s cringeworthy. It looks cheap and like something you’d find available at a stock logo site for $9.99.

Now, truth be told Olive Garden was never renowned for their award-winning authentic Italian cuisine. And call me a skeptic but I seriously doubt that by changing their logo from awful to slightly-less-awful, and calling themselves a “kitchen” rather than a restaurant (what’s wrong with being a restaurant?) they will attract legions of new fans. You can serve the same low-quality food in smaller portions on brand new plates, but that won’t make me want to come back for more.

I’ve said it before, a brand is so much more than a logo. Changing their menu, plateware and interior design to better serve their patrons will do a lot more to reinvigorate their brand than simply changing their logo. So maybe, just maybe, Darden really knows what their doing here.

Look, I’m not saying their bas relief old-school former logo (designed in 1998) was doing them any favors. Because it was soooo old and engrained in the collective conscience, everyone recognized it and knew exactly what to expect from Olive Garden. But this new flat logo (it’s all the rage dontcha know) looks more like a cheap spaghetti sauce label than a major American restaurant chain.

As a designer, this logo is as offensive to me as their menu. So in a way, I shouldn’t be too surprised, at least it’s a good match. What bothers me more is how common these really bad logos seem to be lately…and coming from a large and respected firm like Lippincott, that is really alarming. Where is the creativity? Where is the artistry? A really good design shouldn’t say “yeah, this isn’t very good but at least it’s not as bad as their old logo!”

Final Grade: D

Written by on March 18, 2014

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