Hold the Olives, Hold the Garden
I recently took my wife to Olive Garden for lunch just so I could stay in touch with what they’re doing. On one level, the experience was quite extraordinary. It’s a machine; we were greeted, seated, waited on, and served in a very courteous and efficient manner in a clean nicely appointed restaurant. For what it was, it was well executed. But, while were enjoying our endless bowl of salad, my wife noticed that there were two olives—one for each of us, I assume—in the bowl we were served. Then she said the most marvelous thing: “Interesting, the name is Olive Garden and yet no olives, no garden.” She meant that of course figuratively and literally. From menu to décor, nothing about the experience suggests being in an olive garden.
No doubt, branding experts could translate the concept into a truly remarkable experience and could do it at about the same price point. But I’d approach the situation differently. To my mind, there must be a transformation of leadership and culture before the brand can be addressed successfully. Surely, mindful leaders in the organization have recognized and are and probably struggling with the same disconnect my wife recognized. What I wonder is if those leaders have the personal passion and clarity of purpose to be sufficiently and positively disruptive—to throw a wrench in the works and drive the organization and its brand towards its potential.
All of the pressure for short-term results makes that a difficult move. I wish them well. The gift in the experience for me was being reminded to examine my own alignment with my purpose and to examine my own hypocrisy. I know it’s there if I just push myself to look.