Olive Garden's plan to win back customers? Take the breadsticks it's known for and make sandwiches out of them.
The restaurant chain known for its unlimited breadsticks says it plans to use them for chicken parmigiana and meatball sandwiches starting June 1.
The plans for the breadstick sandwiches are the latest attempt to revamp Olive Garden's menu and marketing to win back customers. Justin Sikora, a Darden representative, said the breadsticks used for the sandwiches will be a bit shorter and wider than the regular breadsticks.
And as with all other dishes, the sandwiches come with unlimited breadsticks.
Olive Garden's unlimited breadsticks gained attention last year during a dispute with an investor, Starboard Value. Among other criticisms of Olive Garden's parent company, Darden Restaurants Inc., Starboard said the chain wasn't being disciplined in its distribution of breadsticks to customers. It also said the quality of the breadsticks seemed to have declined and compared them to hot dog buns.
Shortly after, Starboard won its bid to take control of Darden's board.
In an interview on "Wall Street Week" on Sunday, Starboard CEO Jeff Smith said "it might surprise people that I actually like the breadsticks" and mentioned the plans to introduce breadstick sandwiches.
Smith also repeated that Starboard's criticism about the breadsticks was that Olive Garden wasn't following its own policy for how many breadsticks are placed on tables at a time.
As for the quality of the breadsticks, Sikora said the recipe for them hasn't changed.