Earlier in 2014, Olive Garden’s parent company Darden Restaurants, Inc. revealed a brand new logo for the fast-casual Italian dining eatery’s “brand renaissance”. Feedback from the design community has been largely critical of the modern approach taken in this total overhaul of Olive Garden’s brand. The biggest qualm seems to be that the logo represents something that Olive Garden just is not: upscale, culinary-forward and innovative.
While Darden may have other plans, many have commented that the main thing keeping Olive Garden from further success is the quality of the food: overcooked pasta, unauthentic Italian meals, and a hardline stance to continue producing food that appeals to a less sophisticated diner.
When compared to Olive Garden’s old logo, it’s a substantial improvement. The previous logo was stuck in a very 1990s old world Italian rut (much like their advertising): the stucco background, unrelated grape vine, and loose cursive. The new logo attempts to recreate the same feel of Olive Garden’s brand while being more modern and on-trend, hoping to compete with other restaurants like Chipotle, Panera Bread, Cheesecake Factory and Carrabba’s Italian Grill.
The newly rebranded Olive Garden logo takes an earthy but upscale color palette of muted brown and vibrant olive green to evoke thoughts of fresh, delicious food. Also, Olive Garden has finally incorporated their namesake olive branch into their branding. New colors and imagery are paired with a more deliberate and upright script.
The new design hits the mark in a few ways but falls short in other areas. The addition of olives and an updated color scheme are really working, but critics of the script say it feels too computer generated and far from the “handcrafted” aesthetic that fits with Olive Garden’s brand.
Overall, the design is a step in the right direction for Olive Garden. It represents a sophisticated “modern Italy” while still being family-friendly and approachable.
The true test of Olive Garden’s re-brand will not be how well a trendy logo holds up in another 10 years, but if a redesign and renovations will alienate their loyal, suburban customers. These are the people who come back to Olive Garden and prefer the comfortable way things are done, on the menu and in the décor.
What do you think of the direction Olive Garden is taking their corporate brand?