Must-know: Why Darden introduced new menu items at Olive Garden

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Managing Darden’s key performance metric

Same-store sales are driven by two components—the number of customers walking into a restaurant (guest count or traffic) and the average amount paid by a customer for the food (ticket or average check).

Offering attractive menus and relevant price points can help improve traffic and ticket and eventually same-store sales like we saw in the Panera Bread (PNRA) and Tim Hortons (THI) earnings series and in other restaurants held by the Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (VTI).

Menu innovation for Olive Garden

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Darden Restaurants (DRI) added a Cucina Mia section to its Olive Garden menu for $9.99 to appeal to Millennials—a market that McDonald’s (MCD) and Dunkin’ Donuts (DNKN) are trying to attract. According to QSR magazine, Millennials prefer customizing their own menu. Cucina Mia lets you customize your own pasta, with a choice of sauce and an additional topping.

Menu innovation for LongHorn Steakhouse

Besides the seasonal menu offerings discussed in the next part, LongHorn Steakhouse introduced Small Plates, Bold Bites, and Happy Hour to its menu in June.

Menu innovation for the specialty restaurant group

The company introduced new appetizers, flatbreads, salads, and entrées for Seasons 52. As for the other four brands, the company didn’t announce any new additions to those menus.

Menu innovation is just one way to boost same-store sales. A restaurant chain may also implement a digital strategy, along with other initiatives. We’ll discuss digital strategy later on.

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