The hedge fund behind Olive Garden’s menu makeover recently forced company executives to wait tables at the Italian chain.
Jeff Smith, CEO of hedge fund Starboard Value, said Darden Restaurants’ entire board of directors spent time greeting guests and serving food to better understand how Olive Garden could improve. Darden is Olive Garden’s parent company.
“Every single board member took a night and worked inside the restaurant,” Smith, who is the company’s chairman, told Bloomberg TV. “I was waiting on tables, greeting guests, serving some food, [spending time] in the kitchen — all of us did. It was an amazing experience.”
Smith said the newly-elected directors needed hands-on restaurant experience.
“How are we going to be able to make good decisions in the board room without really knowing what’s happening in the restaurants?” he said in the interview with Bloomberg TV.
Their main takeaway from waiting tables was that the restaurants are “doing a great job,” but they need better “tools,” including a better menu and marketing.
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