Olive Garden, with its family-friendly casual dining experience, is a popular brand. Its peak nights pack the restaurant so much so on Fridays and Saturdays that in some locations, wait times can extend beyond an hour. Guests usually are required to wait on site for tables, and frustration often stems from the fact this chain does not take reservations.
"Often consumers think of the line, and it's a deterrent to going to the restaurant," said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic.
How is Olive Garden rising to this customer-service challenge? While the brand isn't moving forward with reservation-taking, it is testing a plan to let customers to call ahead or check in online to get on waiting lists.
The program allows guests to either dial up or go on the Web to check on wait times and add their names to the list. Guests who call ahead can receive a text message once their tables are ready. These methods don't work exactly like reservations, as customers won't have a table held for them, will be skipped if they're not present when the seater is looking for them, and will have to wait about the same time they would have if they were on site, but at least they will be able to wait while taking care of other errands.
Olive Garden began testing the call ahead and online check-in idea the second week of March in 13 Central Florida locations.
"We want to extend a level of convenience for our guests," said Rich Jeffers, Darden Restaurants spokesperson.
Olive Garden is not the first to attempt this. Outback offers it, while Red Lobster tried a similar program. Will this be the new trend in the industry? Read More