Olive Garden is a casual Italian American restaurant that generated $3.59 billion in revenue last year. They’re a family friendly place that’s known for their breadsticks and unlimited salads at lunch. For 40 years, Olive Garden has become a name that’s not only known in the United States but also around the world since they’ve expanded internationally.
How much does it cost to open Olive Garden? You’ll need a net worth of $1 million to qualify. But franchising Olive Garden can get a little bit tricky. They’re open to franchising but you might only be able to do so internationally. What’s more is Darden Restaurants, the company that owns Olive Garden, might be able to grant you a franchise opportunity in an airport location only. This isn’t what most prospective franchisees are looking to open.
But this doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Read on to know more about how to franchise Olive Garden, what to expect when running this casual dining restaurant. Take our franchise quiz to find out if Olive Garden is the right franchise for you.
- Financial Requirements and Fees
- Average Sales / Revenue per Year
- Olive Garden Franchise Facts
- How Much Does Olive Garden Make in Profit?
- Advantages of an Olive Garden Franchise
- Challenges of an Olive Garden Franchise
- Is the Olive Garden Franchise Right For You?
Financial Requirements and Fees
Darden Restaurants has not disclosed any financial requirements or fees in franchising Olive Garden. The numbers provided below are unofficial.
|Fees / Expenses||Financial Amount|
There are also no official details if how much Olive Garden charges for royalty fees or ad royalty fees. But they do encourage interested applicants to inquire by messaging them.
Average Sales / Revenue per Year
According to Statista, Olive Garden’s revenue in the United States for the year 2021 is $3.59 billion. These may be high numbers but this is a decline from 2020 revenue numbers of $4.01 billion.
Olive Garden Franchise Facts
|Total Units||875 (United States)|
|Incorporated Name||Olive Garden|
|Franchising Since||Does Not Allow Franchising|
|Industry||Casual Dining Restaurant|
|Subsector||Food and Beverage|
Contrary to what people thought of Olive Garden’s beginnings, the restaurant was not started by a single person or from a small business. General Mills, a commercial supplier best known for producing Cheerios, wanted to try their hand in producing their first original restaurant. They already had experience in running a restaurant by acquiring Red Lobster so they opened their own in 1982 and called it Olive Garden.
Olive Garden was meant to be a chain of restaurants right from the start so by 1989, they already had 145 units. In 1995, Olive Garden transferred into the hands of Darden Restaurants who used to own Red Lobster. That is why back then Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants were located next to each other. Often, the restaurant would share a space under one roof.
Olive Garden is known to have an Italian American cuisine. Their menu consists of a variety of pasta and pizza with their Alfredo pastas being the most popular on the menu. They also serve entrées and desserts. But the one thing people keep coming back to are Olive Garden’s breadsticks, soups, and salads that are unlimited if you dine inside their establishments. The breadsticks in particular are so popular that according to an article by Vox in 2014, Olive Garden serves 675 million to 700 million of breadsticks annually.
There are over 900 Olive Garden locations around the world with 875 of them in the United States. At present, Olive Garden does not seem to be available for franchise in the United States unless you’re interested in opening a location in a United States airport. Other Olive Garden locations can be found in Brazil, Canada, Ecuador, El Salvador, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Mexico, Panama, Slovakia, Costa Rica, and will also soon be available in the Philippines.
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At present, it seems that Olive Garden does not allow franchising in the United States unless you want to open a location in a United States airport. They do allow franchising internationally but as for the financial requirements for this, details are not available. You’d have to send in an inquiry by completing this form here.
As for the type of franchisee they’re looking for, Olive Garden has stated that they’re looking for applicants with the following qualities:
- Established operational experience in the restaurant, retail or hospitality industry.
- A proven management team that will ensure the success of their restaurants.
- Ability to develop at least one of Darden’s brands in a certain country or territory.
- Well-capitalized to support investment funding.
Other than franchising, you can do business with Olive Garden by getting in touch with Darden Restaurants for construction, purchasing, telecommunications, real estate, and market development. So for instance, if you have a space up for lease or you wish to sell your land, you can contact Darden Restaurants for a possible Olive Garden location.
Olive Garden also has a variety of floor plans for their locations which you can choose to be freestanding or a store located in shopping malls or airports. Company-owned Olive Garden locations are at 7,700 square feet and can accommodate 250 customers. International locations on the other hand are smaller. Their smallest location is at an international airport at 1,500 square feet.
Olive Garden is so well-known that they’ve been mentioned more than a few celebrities through the years. Katy Perry celebrated her 31st birthday at Olive Garden. Post Malone owns the rights to Olive Garden’s previous slogan “When You’re Here, You’re Family”. Olive Garden was also mentioned by Taylor Swift in her song “No Body, No Crime.”
As mentioned above, Olive Garden is owned by Darden Restaurants. They also own Bahama Breeze, Longhorn Steakhouse, and The Capital Grille.
How Much Does Olive Garden Make in Profit?
Darden Restaurants have several businesses under them but Olive Garden rakes in the most profit. In 2021, Darden Restaurants reported that Olive Garden was able to have an annual segment profit of $832.9 million.
Advantages of an Olive Garden Franchise
Does Olive Garden sounding like an appealing business opportunity? Here are some advantages you can look forward to if you franchise this beloved Italian American restaurant.
Olive Garden has strong brand recognition in most markets. As mentioned above, even celebrities like to dine here. The company is recognized as a family casual dining place with a timeless menu serving Italian favorites. Rest assured that you won’t have trouble with diners understanding you’re brand no matter where you open.
There are a lot of items on the menu at Olive Garden so customers have a chance to try everything on the menu. If not, it might just even get them to come back to try more. No customer won’t ever get bored since there’s variety. There’s chicken, seafood, beef and vegetarian options. There are also low carb options such as salads if you don’t want to go for pasta. And if the customers do stick to loving a certain dish, they’ll keep on coming back for it as well.
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The unlimited bread sticks, soups, and salads are a hit at Olive Garden. These unique unlimited offers bring in the crowd. They may not be the main items on the menu but they’ve turned out to be one of the main things Olive Garden has become known for.
Having unlimited bread sticks, soups, and salads are considered good marketing and that will help you drive in customers towards your Olive Garden location.
Olive Garden isn’t just known in the United States. They’re also known in several parts of the countries listed above. This kind of presence helps strengthen their credibility as well as their popularity. So if you aren’t from the United States, there’s a good chance you’ll know what an Olive Garden is because they might have it in your country.
Darden Restaurants is continuing to franchise internationally. They are reported to open two branches in the Philippines this year.
Challenges of an Olive Garden Franchise
Every business will have its set of challenges, including a long-running one like Olive Garden. Here are some of the challenges you can expect to be able to prepare for them.
It’s Not Authentic
Sadly, if your goal is to eat authentic Italian cuisine at Olive Garden, then you’re in for a disappointment. A lot of the items on their menu aren’t Italian. Their famous Alfredo pastas and spaghetti with meatballs aren’t considered Italian. Even the doughy breadsticks aren’t Italian.
But in all fairness, Olive Garden did say they’re Italian American. But do know if you have Italian customers coming in to get a taste of “Italian” food, be prepared to face some possible strange looks.
The Culinary Institute Isn’t Exactly An Institute
Aside from the Alfredo pasta and the unlimited breadsticks, Olive Garden is known to have a Culinary Institute in Tuscany where managers are sent for training. But according to some reports, it isn’t actually an institute. It’s more like a vacation package.
That’s not entirely a bad thing. At least they get to have an Italian experience and an opportunity to travel and learn about the culture over there.
Slave Labor Issue
Back in 2015, Olive Garden was mentioned by Associated Press that they were among the many American companies along with Red Lobster and Walmart that sourced their shrimp from slave laborers in Thailand. Though a representative from Olive Garden already denied this report saying that they did not receive any products mentioned by Associated Press, it has placed them in a bad light and has harmed Olive Garden’s image.
Despite being one of the most popular casual dining places in the United States, Olive Garden has some pretty tough competition. There’s Red Lobster for example with over 600 locations as well as branches outside of the United States. There’s Buffalo Wild Wings Sports Bar with a thousand locations all over the world. You also have Chili’s and Denny’s to name a few.
Olive Garden is no doubt part of the top of casual dining restaurants in the country. But you’ll also have to take into consideration that there are also many others out there so the key is always having a good location and a proper marketing team.
Is the Olive Garden Franchise Right For You?
Olive Garden could be the franchise for you. But one of the hurdles in getting to have this franchise is if Darden Restaurants would even allow you to have one in the United States. If you’re an international franchisee then you may have a shot at getting a location near you. But if you’re in the United States, then you might just have to settle for an airport location.
Aside from that, you’ll also need to personally inquire with Darden Restaurants regarding their financial requirements when franchising Olive Garden. Since it’s a casual dining place, expect investments to probably reach millions.
What is an Olive Garden alternative?
One casual dining place you can look into is Applebee’s. They’ve been in business since the 1980s and also serve pasta. But aside from that, they also offer chicken, steak, ribs, seafood, sandwiches, and burgers. Applebee’s is also found around the globe.
To franchise Applebee’s, you’d need to have a minimum of $ 3,000,000 for a single store development for your net worth and $ 1,000,000 for a single store development for liquid assets.
Olive Garden is an ideal franchise for those with restaurant and management experience who are looking into having a casual dining business. The establishment has been well-known through the years which give them enough credibility.
Are you all geared up in owning your Olive Garden? We hope this guide was able to help and inspire you into deciding whether or not to franchise this business!